Too Many Books?

I have a confession to make, I’ve read 85 books this year. It wasn’t my goal to read so much. Last year I read 115 books and had intended to slow down to savor the books I read. Twenty books was my original goal because I find that one book per month is rarely unreasonable and twenty was a nice round number. Then I upped my goal to 60 after I surpassed my original goal. As the year is in its final month I was considering the question of whether I have read too many books this year.

As a bit of an introvert (I am recharged by quiet time and solitary activities) books are an especially useful way for me to socialize. There’s a dialogue that forms with a good book where my social needs are satisfied and my imagination is enlivened by this other person’s voice and thoughts. A good year of reading is a blend of fiction and nonfiction because as much as I love both genre they often lack what the other possesses. Fiction can become too fanciful, driven by the need to tell a coherent story with moments of suspense and excitement meant to compel interest and intense page turning. Nonfiction can become too authoritative commanding attention to excessive facts and a particular perspective as recognized truth. The two in concert provide something compelling that fills my days with passion and curiosity as well as endless fodder for my journaling practice.

But, as an introvert there is an upper cap to the number of books I want to make space for in my daily life. Although reading is a solitary activity that recharges me it is also a dialogue. Often it seems that modern writers use social media the way writers of the past used books. It can become easy to see a book as an authority on something because it doesn’t provide the interactive components of an actual conversation or of one that is engaged in online (with delays but with a degree of immediacy). Perhaps because I have a love of exchanging letters I still view reading as inherently social which is why I enjoy writing in physical copies of books I own and enjoy reading the notations others have made in used books.

There is a competitive component in the Goodreads yearly reading challenges. I love to compare my previous years and try to read more books to see if it is possible. However, it seems that 100 is too many books for the way I read. 85 already feels like a bit much although I’m on target to finish at least one more book before year’s end.

This year has not been great for my Netgalley reading although I have read and reviewed some really amazing books I have slowed down in my reading practice to focus more on the books I read. I don’t know if there is a true upper limit on how many books I should read in any given year. The number changes based on my obligations and challenges. But I think I’ve read any many books as I could want to read in 2019. My true reading goal is to allow the books I read to have resonance within me. To really listen to the author and to be able to contribute back to the conversation by feeling and responding to their work. I’m not sure that a number encompasses this goal, each book differs in how much time it takes to feel what is being said and to be capable of responding to the work in a way that fosters intellectual or spiritual growth.

Did I read too many books this year? No. But I still need to work at absorbing them in a way that I feel satisfied with and allowing myself the mental solitude to process the literary dialogues.

Categories: Reading

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