Thursday, November 12, 2015

35 Books And Counting


This past weekend, the weather turned. After a record-breaking week of sunny days with temperatures soaring to the mid-80s, Sunday was a different story. Wet, gray, and cold, fall rushed in quickly, caught us unaware. I didn't mind; I spent most of the day lying on my couch, the heat on, a cup of tea beside me, and a book in my hands. Fates and Furies, by the incredible Lauren Groff. I read for a little over three hours, pausing only to shift my position, refill my tea cup, adjust the heat. Otherwise, I was deep into the novel. When I reached the last few pages and emerged from my trance, I truly felt as if I had been somewhere else. My own life - dogs, husband, friends - felt unfamiliar, off-kilter, and it's hard to explain what happened to me on the couch, even though it has happened before. Certain books take hold, the emotions on the page sloughing into my own life like a second set of skin. 

It isn't always the best books that capture me this way. Sometimes they are - Fates and Furies is, I think, nearly perfect - but usually it's the books I read at the exact right time, the exact right moment in my life. Fates and Furies is about marriage and perception, devotion and creativity, sacrifice and secrets. It's about two sides of one marriage, the story a couple presents to the world and to themselves, and the complicated truths that lurk beneath. I read it in the days leading up to my third wedding anniversary, our thirteenth year together. Marriage has been on my mind and to dive so deeply into Lotto and Mathilde's felt like an incredible gift.

I've said it before, but 2015 has been an overall unspectacular year. Upheaval. Transitions. Career difficulties. Disappointments. Changes in plans. Nothing too tragic, of course, just a general sense of ennui, punctuated by moments of joy. (In other words: life.)

At the same time, it's been an incredible year. Last January, I made a New Year's resolution to read 35 books, and when I reached the last page of Fates and Furies, I also reached that goal. (Now I'm shooting for 40.) This marks the most books I've read in a given year since I was a pre-teen and spent my summers plowing through The Babysitters Club and Sweet Valley High series. Knowing I read so many books, being able to gaze lovingly at my spreadsheet of titles, authors, and stars, gives me an intense satisfaction. I may not have traveled the world or made a million dollars or published my own magnum opus, but look at what I've accomplished. It's a powerful feeling. I also feel like reading so many books (most of them novels, most of the contemporary) taught me so much about writing my own. I won't say I learned more about writing in 2015 than I did while in my MFA program, because my MFA provided a great foundation. But in the end that's all the MFA was - a solid place, upon which I could build a world made of books. 

It's obvious, but a good reminder nonetheless: books are not an escape, but rather a way to experience things I can't. No day is a waste if I spent part of it reading. 2015 will be remembered as an amazing year, because of the depth and breadth of books I read.

PS: The best books I read in 2014. I will do a similar post at the end of 2015, when I have my final tally. 

PPS: Photo credit.  

6 comments:

  1. I love that: "No day is a waste if I spent part of it reading." I'm going to write that down and hang that in my office :)

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  2. Thank you for the thoughtful post -- I was JUST ruminating on this very thing recently. I've always been a reader, but I mostly just read in fits and spurts, and was never super diligent about my reading habit. However, I made 2015 the year of reading... and I have finally followed through. The only other year I've read this much was in 2009. That year has always stood out in my mind as being a great year, which is strange because there is nothing particularly outstanding about that year. In fact, it was kind of bad, as I was in the midst of my tumultuous 20s and nothing in my professional or personal life resembled anything close to success or stability. As I was driving to work a few weeks ago, I realized, now that we are near the end of 2015, I look back on the year with a lot of love. Though this year wasn't necessarily tumultuous, it also wasn't particularly standout either. I truly think reading diligently throughout both of those calendar years made the difference. Reading and connecting with stories and characters so outside of my own little world makes me feel more alive and connected to the world, as overly sentimental as that sounds. Looking forward to your 2015 reading recap, and I hope 2016 holds as much book love for us as 2015!

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    1. Thanks for such a nice reply! I'm so glad to know that I'm not the only one who lives for the transformative effect of books. I love what you said about how books make you feel "more alive and connected to the world." It's so true and perfect, and exactly what I was trying say, just in a more long-winded way. :)

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  3. When I began my 3 year program in french litterature (I'm francophone), we had a course (one year long) that we called "the 80 books course", it was... epic. Because we had all the other courses and books to read, fiction, poetry, theatre, theory, etc. I did the master and PhD after, so it became normal to read 100 books + a year, when I think about it I find it's quite a chance to live this kind of life!

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    1. Oh, I love the idea of that class! 80 or 100 books a year would be such an amazing accomplishment! I think when I retire I will just turn my house into a library and do nothing but read. Maybe then I could read 100 books in one year!

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