Reading

This is by far my worst reading-year since I’ve kept my list, going back to 1996. I’ve completed 9 books this year thus far, and virtually nothing in the last two months or more. I’ve started a dozen books and not finished any of them. It’s almost like I’ve given up. Granted, I’ve been busier in different ways than in the past. I was on vacation for a month and really didn’t have much time to read. I’ve been getting out more, going to happy hours, playing softball, and that cuts into reading time. But I’ve also been watching a lot more TV. I get home from work in the evenings and rather than crack open a book, I flip on the TV and see what TiVo has recorded for me. I have not yet developed the discipline I’d like to avoid doing this.

Way back at the beginning of 1996, I had decided that I wanted to read one book a week, or 52 books a year. Later, I aimed for about 5 million words a year; book lengths vary so much that one book a week can be easy if the book is 200 pages, and nearly impossible if it is 1,000 pages. My main reason for doing this, aside from my love of reading, was to continue my education. Many of my friends had gone back to school to get additional advanced degrees. I didn’t see myself doing that any time soon–after all, I had a burgeoning career. Besides, I wanted to learn arbitrarily, what suited my fancy at any given moment, and not be stuck to some rigid curriculum. For a decade or more, I was fairly successful. But the amount that I read, and in particular, the variety has dwindled in the last few years and it is distressing.

I hope to change this. I want to get back to the way I used to be. Part of the fun of reading was tracking what I read and I’ve slacked off in that capacity somewhat. I plan on fixing that by getting my reading list website back into fully functional operation. Part of the fun was the anticipation of books by authors whom I enjoy reading, fiction and nonfiction alike. There are a couple books I have on order which I should be receiving in the next few weeks that help with this. First, there is Joe Haldeman‘s new book, The Accidental Time Machine. Then, there is William Gibson‘s new book, Spook Country. I always look forward to Joe’s books, which seem to arrive on shelves each August. I also look forward to Gibson’s book, which are much less frequent. I recall reading the last book he wrote, Pattern Recognition, while taking the train to New York. I thought it was one of the best things he’d ever written. I can also remember sometime back in 1995, sitting up on the cliffs of Pacific Palisades, overlooking the ocean and reading Virtual Light. So I’m really looking forward to this next one.

There is also variety. I like reading books on obscure subjects, but also subjects that interest me. Last night, I picked up my copy of Miek Davis’ City of Quartz, a kind of urban history of Los Angeles. I’ve never really read a book about Los Angeles, and I’ve had this one for so long, I felt it was time. Hopefully this will keep me occupied until the new books show up.

Our days get filled with all sorts of stuff, trivial and important until there is simply no time left. But it wasn’t always this way. Living in L.A., I fought an hour or more of traffic on the drive home each evening, and yet I almost always found time to sit out on the balcony and read. How? Well, back then I watched almost no television. It comes down to a decision of what’s really important I suppose, what you are willing to give up. Yet another good argument for getting rid of my TV entirely, although I’d much prefer to develop the discipline to limit how much TV I watch.