When I worked for Uncle Sam, I had plenty of reading to do: incoming correspondence; outgoing correspondence; manuals (internal and external); regulations; accident reports; white papers; aviation magazine articles; comments on rulemaking–the list is pretty much endless. Besides having the time to write for myself, the other thing I looked forward to upon retirement was also having plenty of time to read what I wanted to read, not what I had to read.
As a child and teen, reading was my escape, and like most kids of a certain age, my chief escape was in science fiction. In high school, teachers introduced me to English and American “lit-tra-chure,” and if I liked an author, e.g., Thomas Hardy, I’d then devour all the author’s works. I’ve read all of Shakespeare–that we’re aware of–all of Hardy, the Brontes; all of Melville and Poe; all of Hemingway (albeit reluctantly); all of Agatha Christie. There are probably other, more contemporary authors I’ve read all of, but they escape me right now.
For the past five or six years, I’ve participated in Goodreads’ Reading Challenge, where you designate a specific number of books you’ll read in a year and track them on Goodreads.
I have to say my success has been mixed.
The first year I picked some ridiculously low number, like, one book a month. I think I read 40 books that year. So, the next year I set 40 as a goal and barely made 20. The next year I split the difference at 30 and made that goal.
In 2020 before pandemic (BP), I’d set a goal for 32 books. With being locked down and stuck in the house, I thought making that goal and more would be easy. Nope. I managed to finish 15 books for the year. I know a lot of friends who increased their reading habit, but I was focused on finishing writing some books, you know, in case I became a COVID statistic. However, I was pretty embarrassed at that low accomplishment.
I mean, there are plenty of unread books on my Kindle and stacked around my house, but for whatever reason, I simply didn’t have the interest.
In part, that was because I had a breakthrough in my editing business. I edited eight books, not counting my own. I suppose I could add them to my total for 2020, but that doesn’t seem quite right. And, when you’re editing, you’re a different kind of reader. You’re not reading to enjoy but rather to critique and make suggestions. By about edit four, I couldn’t face reading a book for enjoyment. Even my book club books got finished (or not) at the last minute.
And there was also Netflix, Prime, CBS All Access, and Disney +, not to mention Hulu and The Roku Channel. I also worked pretty hard on my Russian language course on Duolingo. (I’m close to 270 straight days.)
Nah, all those are but excuses.
The year 2020 was one of despair and not only because of COVID. “Agoraphobic germophobe” was not a title I would have normally had, but that’s what I’m approaching. I had–have–minimal focus. I accomplish only that which appears every day in my authorship planner and little else.
Now, there’s an idea. Maybe I need to add “Read” to each day to remind me to do just that. I better do it soon because here we are, two-thirds of the way through January 2021, and I haven’t finished a single book of the 36 I’ve challenged myself to read. Book club is on Thursday. I better get cracking.
Or you could participate in the challenge with me. How many books will you read in 2021? I challenge you to a reading duel!