“My whole life I have been waving the names of writers, as if we needed rescue. From these writers, for almost 50 years, I have received narrative, witness, companionship, sanctuary, shock and steely strangeness; good advice, bad news, deep chords, hurtful discrepancy and amazing grace. At an average of five books a week, not counting all those sighed at and nibbled on before they go to the Strand, I will read 13,000. Then I’m dead. Thirteen thousand in a lifetime, about as many as there are new ones published every month in this country. It’s not enough, and yet rich to excess. The books we love, love us back.”
— John Leonard, literary critic, d. 2008.
At the end of my first year here, I tried to assess my life in what I had gained, lost, spent. All I need to remember about the year can be summed up by the following purchases: 38 books, eight round-trip tickets to Los Angeles, four eyeliner pencils, and two pairs of truly uninspiring black flats for work. Where your treasure is, there your heart lies, indeed. I kind of regret not calculating how many bottles of salad dressing I went through.
Books comprise the easiest life-marker for me to track, in part due to the glorious Goodreads (the only non-awful social networking medium) but largely due to my demented record-keeping. Now that Goodreads has STATS(!), it’s possible to track all kinds of tidbits you may wish forgotten (see below). Between Goodreads (which I use only in a limited fashion, in spite of previous parentheticals), the back of my journal (where I record what I’ve read, author and date), and my cute little book journal (one of the best gifts ever received, you blessed soul, you know who you are), here is what I have learned:
The year I graduated, moved, and voted avidly. Also the year I read 52 books (by resolution), purchased 49, gifted 11, and received 7.
Longest book read: Breaking Dawn, the fourth book in the Twilight series, which weighed in at 756 pages (beware: Goodreads is forever).
Some favorite/5 star reads of the year: The Remains of the Day by Ishiguro, A Writer’s Diary by Woolf, and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Murakami.
I also like to think the children benefited this year, particularly Simon and Ethan, lucky recipients of Chicken Soup and Rice (a classic among the under-5 set).
No crazy resolutions. Read 35 books, purchased 38 (attempt to get it under control), gifted 16, received 4.
Most frequently gifted: The Sartorialist, by Scott Schuman, granddad of street fashion.
Longest book read: Dracula, by Bram Stoker. Longest because all the adult editions had scary covers so I held out for a small, chunky children’s edition.
Pretty homesick by then, as evidenced by avid reading of Bukowski, Nathanael West, Raymond Chandler, Mike Davis, even Bret Easton Ellis.
Books read: 32 (downward spiral!). Purchased: 43 (acceptance that I have a problem). Gifted: 6 (slacking). Received: 12 (highlights include two graphic novels from Jeff, including one called All My Friends Are Dead).
My other favorite thing to do is rearrange the books in my apartment. Here is a recent configuration inspired by my overwhelming Christmas present from Carol (featured in the middle shelf). Having Carol as a secretary is like having a loving great-aunt at work who assures you that you’re her favorite and who says flattering but highly embarrassing things about you to your boss. Also, I am pretty sure that Carol likes me more than my real family does.
During this last of many book-rearranging benders, S remarked that I derive great enjoyment from my books without even reading them. It’s so nice to be understood. And, my books totally love me back.