You Make This Kinda Worthwhile

25 Oct

So last week’s book was a re-read of Shakespeare’s finest, Macbeth, something I undertook as preparation for my Saturday viewing of play-turned-haunted-house-turned-awesome-freak-party Sleep No More, which deserves an entire post unto itself if only I’d devoted this blog to theater or art installations instead of books. And although I enjoyed Macbeth (especially re-reading the exact same copy of the play I first bought in ninth grade), there’s not much I could say about it that hasn’t already been said, either by Shakespeare scholars or—more likely—fellow-re-readers. Things like “I always forgot how many famous quotes there are!” or “This seemed far more intimidating when I was 12” or “With enough typewriters, monkeys could definitely have written this.” No, more important than the content of my latest book is the fact that it was itself a milestone: my 50th read, and the culmination of an entire year manning this total timesuck super awesome blog. I’ve known this day was coming for awhile, and kept hoping some stunning book-related epiphanies would come to me before I actually had to sit down and write about it. But honestly, not much has changed in the last year except that somewhere in my brain, among all the song lyrics and Jersey Shore dialogue, is the cumulative knowledge of 50 new books—15,000 pages, give or take.  I suppose there are people for whom this wouldn’t be impressive, but I’d be lying if I said an entire year at this pace hasn’t been trying. Sunday afternoons in particular, when only an actual power outage could keep me from watching endless hours of trashy television, have been a battle of will power, with me telling myself I could start a marathon of America’s Next Top Model only after getting through another 50 pages of whatever book I’d promised myself to finish that week. It’s weird, when you love books, to think that reading them can sometimes be a chore. I have such nostalgia for reading as a child, when I looked forward to little more than curling up in the big blue chair in my living room (it was just like the beast’s chair in Beauty and the Beast) and zoning the world out. But there was a lot less world then—now I have a job, friends, my own television, an iPhone and a tendency to get distracted by shiny objects. I’m self-sufficient and can leave my apartment at will; I’m of legal drinking age and live in a city with 7 trillion bars. Reading now seems like so much more of a challenge—the world I’m trying to ignore is bigger and flashier and keeps beeping at me. But in the last year, the time I’ve spent with books—over computer screens or TV screens or whiskey shots—was ultimately amazing. I read the entire Hunger Games trilogy in a week, learned a shit-ton about the World’s Fair, read transcripts from astronauts and had my mind melted by the physics of ocean waves. I found myself falling in love with books that might have otherwise sat on my shelves for years to come, and passing over easy reads in favor of titles that fit with current events. I’ve had far more conversations about books with friends, made far more recommendations and took far more suggestions. I developed a weekly book-selection ritual and cultivated a slightly neurotic process for taking review-related notes. In short, I’ve turned this into something of a part-time job, the kind where you get paid in a sense of accomplishment and the occasional notion that someone, somewhere, every so often, might care a teeny tiny bit what you think. Which is totally enough. And I guess that’s the surprising singular insight I’ve gotten out of this. Yes, I’ve learned that it’s (a) possible to read all the time if you really put your mind to it, and (b) okay to not always want to. But I went into this thinking it would be an incredibly isolated project, that 90% of my time would be spent staring at pages and the other 10% essentially talking to myself. What I’ve found most rewarding is getting to discuss reading with other people, to compare notes on certain authors or agree to disagree on certain books. I’ve started talking about what I’m reading (even if I have a sneaking suspicion it makes me sound arrogant) and picking books I know might foster conversation. I’m eager to pass on my books to friends so that I might get their thoughts, and equally excited—more excited, really—to get suggestions from others. When I started this whole thing, I was so caught up in thinking that the tools for sharing, whether we’re talking about Facebook, Twitter or the tongue-loosening effects of 5 beers on a Saturday, would prove distractions from reading that I never stopped to think about how interesting the sharing part could become.  The actual consumption of books was what I’d do anyway—now I’m just less shitty about finishing them—but the blog became more than a way to hold myself accountable to a self-imposed timeline. Instead I got to incorporate all the best parts of my online self—sarcastic observations, underdeveloped conclusions, a penchant for run-on sentences—with all the best parts of my offline self (the 10-year-old in the Beauty and the Beast chair.) So happy bookiversary (because I said it’s a word, that’s why) to me. May I continue this blog until the kids no longer know what blogging is. Or until TV streams directly into our brains.

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