August 11, 2012

Of the reading of books there is no end . . .

. . . or so would Solomon have said, if he weren't so busy making 'em.

This being the halfway point of the year—roughly; it's more like the halfway point of the summer—I thought I'd take stock of this year's reading program. As of now, I've completed 14 books and have a further 4 in various stages of incompleteness. This being the eighth month of the year, that's somewhat less than two books per month. But it's also the 32nd week of the year, and so by rights I should be through that many books, and none of these have been particularly long (excepting, perhaps, The Stand).

Methinks I'm often too ambitious. Not with the volume—I think a novel a week is quite achievable, and I've done it before. But I'm trying to balance various genres, pulp vs. literary fiction, and so forth, and I'm finding that my enthusiasm for reading waxes and wanes accordingly. For a guy with a BA in English, for example, my tastes in fiction are decidedly populist: better suited to an airport lounge than a wing chair. And while I'm not in the least apologetic about my tastes, it does mean that when I try to tackle, say, Dickens or Steinbeck, my page count takes a hit.

So I've decided to change tactics in the short term. A while back, I started reading through the complete works of Stephen King, in order, although, as I said back in February,

I have a definite bias towards the first half of King's writing career. This is simply due to the fact that apart from Dreamcatcher and Under the Dome, I haven't read anything of his more recent than 1996's The Green Mile. Somewhere I got it in mind to reread King's works anew from the beginning, and got caught in the 1980s.

So, for the foreseeable future, every other book is going to be by King. Earlier this week, I finished up The Stand, so next on the block will be The Long Walk, the second of the "Bachman books."

In alternating weeks, I plan to read Frank Herbert's six original Dune novels, of which I finished the first today. Last week I watched the 2000 miniseries again, and really enjoyed it; I followed this up with the David Lynch feature from 1984, which only served to remind me that a cast of fine actors and some great source material does not guarantee you a good movie. Nice design, though. In any case, John Harrison and David Lynch inspired me to go ad fontes and reread the novel. I haven't read any in the series in at least 10 years, and in fact I've never read farther than God Emperor of Dune, so at least somewhere in October I will be breaking new ground instead of treading over territory I've covered before.

Speaking of science fiction, it's only a few weeks until September, and my eighth annual moratorium on reading SF. I've decided to do something a little different this year: focus on nonfiction instead of fiction. On my works-in-progress list to the right, Mark Steyn's After America and Truman Capote's In Cold Blood are languishing, so I'll start by finishing them, and then move on to something else. Stephen King's Danse Macabre should be more or less in position to read at that point, too. After that, I'll fill in the rest of the month with whatever I can. My goal is to maximize the number of books I can complete in a single month, rather than hold strictly to the one-book-per-week schedule. I'm also re-reading Augustine's Confessions, so I hope finally to begin blogging a series on the book that I've long wanted to do, and which I hope will lead to regular blogging on a few profound theological or philosophical books each year.

It seems odd to update an all-too-often-neglected blog just to let you all know about my all-too-often-neglected reading habit, but there you go. Happy reading!