At the end of 2008 I decided to count how many books I had read that year. I’d been commuting nearly an hour each way all year, and had read and read and read as I sat on those trains. I’m not sure if I remembered them all, but the total I came up with was 75.
To be fair, some of those I gave up on, as I’m not one to slavishly read to the end of a book if it’s no good, and five of them were children’s novels, so very short, quick reads, but still, that was a lot of reading!
I decided to continue keeping track of my reading, but in February of 2009 I moved into a flat rather closer to work – an eight-minute walk away, instead of a long commute – and my reading suffered; that year I read just 35 books – and that includes eight reports I had to proofread for work. In 2010 and 2011, partly helped by lots of reading for my MA, I read 53 and 44 books respectively, but for the past three years I have averaged 33 books a year.
I realise that’s not bad going – nearly three per month – and for the past two years I have been earning my living as a proofreader, and am no longer counting work projects in my ‘books read’ list, so more words have passed my eyes than the tally suggests.
As I look back over the list, though, it strikes me that last year’s in particular looks just a bit thin. There were a few really good reads in there – The Dust Diaries, for instance, was an excellent biography and an eye-opening insight into the life of a Zimbabwean missionary (I reviewed it here if you want to know more), and Matt Haig’s The Humans was probably my favourite novel, in a crop of several that were really satisfying and well-written.
The book I’m currently working through, though, is far and away my best read of 2014. I’ll review it properly when I’ve finished it (and will probably turn straight round and read it again!), but it’s Celebration of Discipline, by Richard Foster, and I’m LOVING it!
It has both sparked and begun to meet my hunger for a bit more depth to my reading and thinking. I don’t feel as though I have stretched my brain very much for the past couple of years.
In some ways, that’s a slightly mistaken perception – in the first half of this year I made really good progress on writing my first book – a non-fiction book, on personhood – so that required depth of thought and engagement with big issues. Then in the summer I got a new part time job and both the hours I needed to give to that and the creative and mental energy it took meant that I was unable to do any more writing (not helped by then being ill for most of November and December!). But still, I’ve been feeling dry, and Celebration of Discipline has begun to quench my thirst (yes, I know I’m mixing my metaphors from a couple of paragraphs ago!).
The lack of posts on this blog in the last half of the year is a reflection both of my busyness and of my lack of engagement with any issues of depth.
I don’t really make New Year’s Resolutions – they are too easy to break, which then causes utterly pointless guilt – but for 2015 I intend to seek to dig more deeply. I’ll do this by:
– Finishing some of the good non-fiction books I’ve got piled up on my bed – started but not quite returned to;
– Reading in bed almost every night, even if it’s just a page, instead of just checking Facebook one last time;
– Reading (or listening to on Audiobooks) at least a couple of meaty classics that require a bit of perseverance;
– Seeing some good theatre – this year I started keeping track of the plays I saw, too, and it was a pitiful list! Only six, and all of them just fluff (apart from a production of Hamlet which was not particularly good!). I’m spoiled for choice in London, and really need to make an effort to see something significant again next year.
I want my reading and cultural engagement to be fun, too, of course, so I’ll keep reading lighter things and seeing lighter plays as well, but hopefully this time next year I’ll feel as though I have given my brain some good exercise, and will have learned and grown in the process.
How about you? How has your reading, listening or watching been this year? Has it been a three course meal or a succession of desserts? What has been your book of the year? What do you recommend I read in 2015?
Whatever your plans for the year, I hope 2015 is a wonderful one for you. Thank you so much for following my blog this year – it has been wonderful to share the year with you. Happy New Year!
Picture Credit: 172/365 – Digging a hole by Adam Bindslev
Updated on 1/1/15 to correct my maths – 33 books a year is nearly 3 per month, not 2 as I originally said! Maybe I need to work on my sums in 2015, not my reading!