This post was written as a reaction to this post over on LitHub:
What I Learned from Keeping a List of Every Book I Read
I started logging the books I read a number of years ago. For some time, I had suspected I read *a lot* but didn’t know what “a lot” meant or anything. In starting to gather some reviews together in order to start publishing my book reviews on my blog, I realised that
a) some of my posts were *appalling*
b) there was a good percentage of the books I had no memory of reading, what the plot was about or whether I liked the book beyond knowing that it was a “good read”.
So, in 2011, I started to use Goodreads and their “Reading Challenge” function (as well as optional year-read shelves), to keep a track of the books I read during a year. The first few years I challenged myself to read around the 100 book mark, but after a few years I became aware that in at least 6 weeks of the year (generally from mid-November through to New Year), I was reading short or unchallenging books in order to get my numbers up.
In trying to think back to the books I had read when I was younger (pre teen essentially) I was surprised at the books I could remember having read (and sad about the books I must have read, but don’t remember). I do remember going to the library and being “upped” to the adult lending rates early, as the librarian realised that not only was I reading the maximum child rates each week but I was understanding them (I wasn’t exactly given an exam, but I’m sure I was certainly questioned each week about what I brought back).
When it came to setting my Reading Challenge numbers in 2016, I decided that I would read what I wanted. If it meant that I only read 20 books a year (down from the 100+) then so be it.
This year (2019) I’ve not set a specific number of books, but I’ve decided to use two Reading Challenges, in part to get rid of the books in my house that have spilled out onto sofas and coffee tables. The challenges (Paper Only and Historical Fiction) are designed to get rid of a good percentage of the books that fulfill these criteria.
In realising the number of short and/or easy books I’ve been reading over several years, I’ve come to realise that I’ve lost a certain amount of critical thinking. Books I would have considered easy when I was younger I now consider “hard”….I have to do things, like remember character names, relationships etc. Gasp! This is certainly one of the reasons I’m reading a lot slower than I was before. That’s not to say the books I’ve read in previous years were *bad* (although I’ve discarded my fair share of those that were BAAAAADDDD), they were just like Krispy Kreme doughnuts – lovely in the moment, tasty, yummy, but minutes or days later, you have to ask yourself if it was truly worth it in the long terms (yes? hahahahha).
There is the facility in Goodreads, as well as Librarything, to export your books into a huge spreadsheet, that will allow for much greater data mining. I know some people do this – I’m not there (yet).
I know that my reading over the last few years consists mainly of
- White Western women authors
- Writing usually about Women, presumably also white (few state otherwise)
- With the historical books, the stories are usually about members of the *ton*, which therefore implies a certain level of education an money, even if the overarching story s about women overturning the patriarchy.
I know that my paper books are much more diverse, so by switching away from e-books, I am already expanding my reading material. I’ve read male authors writing about male characters (ok, still white, but please bear with me); male scifi writers producing the most appalling misogynistic/sexist material (wow, I forgot that was still a trope in the 1970s); non white writers of either sex, writing about whatever.
I do expect my book reading to become more diverse n the next few years, however, I am restricted by budget and the fact that my current TBR is HUGE – I’d rather read the books that I already have (even if the selection is still relatively narrow) than pick up the current trends, only for them to be lost in all the other books I have. I will read a book because I want to read it, not because it’s fashionable or someone tells me I should.
So, Constant Reader, what about you – do you know what you’re reading/have been reading?