Do Nothing But Read Day

Today is the first ever Do Nothing But Read Day. I have been remiss in not telling you about it before. While I am doing my part in that I am still in pajamas, I actually have some plans today because it’s the neighborhood Solstice Bonfire. I will swap DNBRD with actual Solstice and do my best to wear mostly pajamas and mostly read. I’ve done a decent job stepping up my reading this year when I realized that my book-reading was plummeting last year. Not a huge deal, but I decided that if reading books was important to me, I should make an effort to do it, not just bemoan not doing it. So I did. And it’s been going well. Best of luck for best of books over the holiday season and the new year.

some weekend and summer reading

Summer starts this weekend which means some people decide it’s time to read books. The main impetus is kids out of school, but there are also teachers who have summer “free” to read books as well. Many media outlets make their summer reading lists and other bloggers collect them. Here are a few links that I find worthwhile about summer reading, but when I make my list, I’m just going to look at the towering stack of both unfinished and not-yet-started books that always graces the table by my kitchen table.

I was going to include links to state libraries’ summer reading programs but it looks like a lot of state libraries either don’t have statewide summer reading programs or don’t advertise them well. If you have a library summer reading program you’re fond of, please put it in the comments.

And a special “Hey nice job” to a colleague of longtime reader/contributor Eoin Kelly whose coworker Rosemary Hetherington was awarded the Children’s Books Ireland award which recognizes “outstanding contribution to the world of children’s books.” There’s a nice writeup on the CBI page. Congrats Rosemary!

“needing the stupid things” Luc Sante on the book collection that devoured his life

Luc Sante is profiled in the Wall Street Journal talking about his book collection and its relationship to his space and his sanity. I’m not sure I’ve ever mentioned this, but I have a whole house that just sort of holds on to my books. The real explanation of why me and my books don’t live together anymore is longer and more complicated but let me just say that I know exactly where Luc is coming from and this article delights me. Don’t miss the sidebar history of private libraries.

I would very much miss books as material objects were they to disappear. The tactility of books assists my memory, for one thing. I can’t remember the quote I’m searching for, or maybe even the title of the work that contains it, but I can remember that the book is green, that the margins are unusually wide, and that the quote lies two-thirds of the way down a right-hand page. If books all appear as nearly identical digital readouts, my memory will be impoverished. And packaging is of huge importance, too — the books I read because I liked their covers usually did not disappoint. In the world of books, all is contingency and serendipity. Books are much more than container vessels for ideas. They are very nearly living things, or at least are more than the sum of their parts.

2007 reading list, a year end summary

Here are previous year end lists: 2006, 2005, 2004. As you probably know, my booklist lives in a separate blog and it has its own RSS feed. I’m not a voracious reader and I’ve been heavy into genre fiction this year, but here’s the wrap-up of what I read in 2007.

number of books read in 2007: 53
number of books read in 2005: 86
number of books read in 2004: 103
number of books read in 2003: 75
number of books read in 2002: 91
number of books read in 2001: 78
average read per month: 4.4
average read per week: 1
number read in worst month: 1 (November)
number read in best month: 9 (March)
percentage by male authors: 78
percentage by female authors: 22
fiction as percentage of total: 63
non-fiction as percentage of total: 37
percentage of total liked: 89
percentage of total ambivalent: 11
percentage of total disliked: 0

It was not a good year for reading, to put it mildly. I did more travel than ever before, but I spent more time on planes either working or watching back-of-seat movies or just sleeping. Last year I felt like I got a lot of reading done on planes.

This year I also had a new time-consuming hobby which was (and is) swimming. In an attempt to meet a pretty ambitious goal — one which I did not wind up meeting, but boy did I try! — I spent a lot more free time swimming, driving to the pool, showering, etc. And then of course when you swim you sleep like a log, which means less fidgety before sleep time for reading which was a standard reading time for me. I like swimming a lot, but the impact it has on my reading is, to me, quite clear.

So, it’s interesting to do this every year to see how the years compare. I read a lot of genre fiction — six books by John Lescroart, two by Greg Bear, two by Henry Petroski, four graphic novels — and that will probably continue. I read a few books that I enjoyed but which took me weeks to work through, 1491 and Men of Tomorrow, which really put a damper on other reading. I did less parallel reading this year and more serial reading, so when one book bogged me down, I was less able to pick up something else. In any case, I believe that every single one of those books was a loaner from a friend or family member, a library book or a library booksale book and to me that’s a decent accomplishment. Happy reading to everyone in the new year.

Here are some other reader’s lists: Anirvan, Ruby.

ReadMe, a readers advisory sort of wiki page

One of the types of questions we get a lot in Ask MetaFilter is “what book should I read on XYZ topic?” It’s one of those questions that the hive mind is actually good at answering because it’s just brainstorming and list generation by a self-selected group of people, not the “do I need to get this wound looked at?” sort in which you really shoudl ask a doctor. So, someone on MetaFilter decided to organize these questions into a wiki page. MetaFilter has our own wiki where a lot of information that may not need its own home on the site can reside, and where users can contribute content directly. The page is called ReadMe and contains a categorized list of over 650 topics on what to read, linking directly to the Ask MetaFilter thread where the topic was discussed. There’s even a section about libraries. It still needs a bit of tweaking, but what an awesome resource and a good concrete example of the nifty aggregating effects of blogs, and the “anyone can build something” effects of wikis.

because it is hallowe’en in many places

Here are Twenty Spooky Stories that you are allowed to read and share because they are on the Internet available for reading and sharing. How nice. [thanks defective yeti!]

(mostly) fully clothed women reading

Lezende Vrouwen in de Kunst (women reading, in artworks). The site is in Dutch but you can just click across the century links up top. From the always excellent BibliOdyssey.

who weeds the weeders?

weeding irony

They weeded the library science section at my local library. I took home a few books from the FREE cart and also snappd this picture.

but what are people really reading

I’m fascinated by the Public Lending Right scheme wherein authors receive money from the government for the lending of their books in public libraries. Nothing like having a little money involved to get accurate statistics on who is reading what. One author reports on what people are actually reading at the library.

The truth is that public libraries have become a service for the very young – the place where you go to inspire the nippers with a love for literature. For better or worse (and I’d say worse), they are no longer where many adults go in search of information (what’s Google for, after all?).

If adults go at all, it seems that it’s hardback fiction that they are mainly after. Josephine Cox and Danielle Steel came in second and third place in PLR’s top twenty last year (with sales in Steel’s case totalling over 500 million, I’m not quite sure this is the kind of struggling writers that the Brophy’s had in mind). And so far as I can see, there were no authors of non-fiction for adults in the top hundred; though Terry Deary, who wrote the Rotten Romans etc for kids, non-fictin of a kind, does get there.

2006 reading list, a year end summary

I liked doing this last year. I think I’ll do it again this year. Slow year for reading for me. I was busy, busier maybe than I’ve been lately.

number of books read in 2006: 60
number of books read in 2005: 86
number of books read in 2004: 103
number of books read in 2003: 75
number of books read in 2002: 91
number of books read in 2001: 78
average read per month: 5
average read per week: 1.25
number read in worst month: 0 (December)
number read in best month: 8 (November, August)
percentage by male authors: 59
percentage by female authors: 41
fiction as percentage of total: 60
non-fiction as percentage of total: 40
percentage of total liked: 77
percentage of total ambivalent: 23
percentage of total disliked: 0

I made a little spreadsheet of all the books. There was only one that I couldn’t remember off the top of my head. There were two that followed me through the entire year: Let Us Now Praise Famous Men and And Their Children After Them, both terribly haunting depictions of the short and long term effects of rural poverty. I think of them every day when I’m at work, trying to help.

Looking for something to read? Check out this compilation of “best of 2006” reading lists that the Seldovia Public Library has assembled on their delightfully bloggy library website.