A Bookish Resolution

2235761852_124c18bec1_mI have a thing for books and most anything related to places that hold books…book stores, libraries, shelves, etc. My heart holds a special place for the library of my youth (i.e. the library before computers and Internet). Watching Breakfast at Tiffany’s reminded me of this affection as I watched Holly and Fred search for his book in the card catalog (starting at about 1:40). There was something so grown up about pulling out those little drawers, flipping cards, and searching the shelves for the neatly typed titles.

My love affair with books and all things bookish makes it difficult for me to comprehend a world that seems disinterested in books. From Adrian Hon via  Rachel Clarke I learned how grim the book reading landscape is:

40% of people in the US (and 34% in the UK) do not read books any more. They may surf the web, or the read the occasional newspaper, but they do not read more than one book (fiction or non-fiction) in a year.

The closer you look at the statistics, the more depressing it gets. In the US, only 47% of adults read a work of literature – and I don’t mean Shakespeare, I mean any novel, short story, play or poem – in 2006.

Adrian does an excellent job of explaining the larger issues related to the reading decline. I encourage you to read his full post. For my part, I’ve decided to be more public about my book reading. My interest is less in doing a book review per se, but more about demonstrating how much of my thinking is impacted by what I read.

To start, I have 1,638 books in my personal collection. Of that number, I feel comfortable saying I’ve read about 75-80%. On average, I go through 4-5 books per week, less if my reading is for research/study versus pleasure. Throughout the coming year, I’ll share as appropriate (some of my reading selections are more mind candy than mind challenging) the books and the ideas they contain that make me think. Yes, there are a great many blogs and online writers who fire the imagination, but I never would have started blogging if I hadn’t been reading great books that got me thinking in the first place.

My goal isn’t to rank the value of any creative source but rather to point out the necessity of pulling from all possible sources. Given that my posts tend to be lengthier, I suspect many of my readers will appreciate my New Year’s wish that you’ll enjoy book-filled weeks and months to come.

Image courtesy of Paxsimius.


10 Responses to “A Bookish Resolution”

  1. January 6, 2009 at 6:12 pm

    Wow Britt, that is a fascinating statistic and sadly one I keep hearing. Ok, I read 137 books last year (which is low, but grad school (scholarly articles don’t count, even if they are 90 pages) and Work got in the way) so I’m a bit unique, but whenever I go to the library there are long lines (i.e. 20-30 deep) of people checking out or returning books (and 8-10 librarians doing check out and 3 self-check out stations). As I go almost daily, I see many of these faces return weekly.

    We’ve not totalled up the contents of our library here at home. There are quite a few I haven’t read yet (the library books distracted me) so I’m working to fix that this year.

    There is nothing wrong with mind-candy reading. I often find that those books “relax” my mind and allow for me to tackle those tasks which are mind challenging. I’m curious what you read for mind candy as much as what you read for the challenge.

    My new approach to picking books at the library is to pull publishers and authors I’ve not heard of. I’ve found some amazing books this way and it’s broadened my reading horizons more than any “list of classics I haven’t read yet”.

    Right now I’m going a bit crazy as I wait impatiently for new “close work” glasses (may they come this week) so I can read (or do anything) without eye pain. I’ve had to listen to audio books to get my book fix and it’s just not the same.

  2. January 6, 2009 at 6:13 pm

    also — i want that card catalogue! (we’re building our own database but it’s just not the same)

    • 3 Britt
      January 7, 2009 at 9:39 am

      @penny: I, too, visit my local library regularly and there’s usually lines for the three checkout stations. Happily, my library has installed three self-checkout stations, making it much easier to come and go.

      As to my mind candy selections, I’m happy to provide on an individual basis. I’m somewhat sheepish about certain titles.

      For me, I’ve had some luck find new authors via Amazon. It’s recommendations based on past purchases aren’t always great, but they’re a good starting point.

      I also wish that it made sense to create a physical card catalog vs. a digital catalog.

  3. January 8, 2009 at 1:17 am

    Wow, and I thought I read a lot! 4-5 a week, whew!

    I recently put together a list of tips for reading more…if you can think of any more tips from your experience please drop by and add to the list! 🙂

    • 5 Britt
      January 9, 2009 at 12:30 pm

      @Kelly: I particularly appreciate the 50-pages rule. I struggle with stopping a book once I’ve started out of fear that it will suddenly get good. One tip I would add is using audio books for all those times it’s not safe to be reading a book. My car trips are much more entertaining thanks to smart books versus repetitive pop music.

  4. 6 Mike Holyoak
    January 9, 2009 at 12:19 am

    Speaking of books, all of us writers in mela-land (and a few other in the dept.) are all on Goodreads.com.
    I know it’s no card catalog, but it’s still pretty fun to rate and review books and see what everyone else is reading.

    • 7 Britt
      January 9, 2009 at 12:31 pm

      @Mike: In theory, I have a Goodreads account. Your comment reminded me of it. Keeping it up-to-date may prove a good way to manage my stacks of yet to read.

  5. January 11, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    I’m on LibraryThing, but I’ve heard of GoodReads. Does anyone know the benefits of one over the other?

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