DEBORAH CROMBIE: My daughter told me the other day that she had resolved to read one hundred books in 2014. Now, there's nothing momentous about the number--she's a big reader, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if she read more than a hundred books this past year. But her determination to read at least a certain number of books, and to keep count, made me realize what a disorganized reader I am.
I have attempted, on numerous occasions, to keep track of WHAT I read. I have a book journal, with, well, maybe three pages filled out. I've put books in my personal journal, occasionally. (And don't ask how long it's been since I made an entry in that!) I've made notes on what I'm reading now and again in my calendar.
But I've never resolved to read a certain number of books, or any particular books for that matter. The truth is that I read much less now than I did before I was a published author, strictly because of time limitations. (Reading fiction during a work day, unless I can call it "research", is a big no-no. Otherwise, I'd never get any writing done.) I also read a lot of books that are connected with work--friends' books, books sent to me by publishers, etc.--and these pop up randomly. Or I read ABOUT a book, and that goes next on my to-read list, in place of whatever I might have had in mind. (Notice Sujata Massey's THE SLEEPING DICTIONARY in my stack...)
I quite like the idea of organized reading, however, so if I can't set a number-of-books goal, or a specific list-of-books goal, I thought I'd at least try to make note of what I do read.
(So far this year, Kim Fay's THE MAP OF LOST MEMORIES, which I loved. Then, an advance copy of a debut novel called MURDER AT THE BRIGHTWELL, by Ashley Weaver, a great 1930s romp. And now, something I have actually had on my to-read list since it came out in 2010, BLACKOUT, by Connie Willis. Haven't finished that one yet, but loving it.)
So, REDS, do you set goals and/or make reading resolutions, or do you just read whatever lands on your desk or tickles your fancy?
RHYS BOWEN: I could never set myself a reading goal--at least not until I retire in the remote future to a desert island with nothing but a crate of champagne and books. I find I can't read much fiction when I'm writing and I write two books a year which doesn't leave much time. I read like crazy on vacation (love all of Connie Willis's books, Debs). I have to read a certain number of ARCs to give quotes for new authors. Thus year I've been chairperson of a competition so lots of books I would not otherwise have read. But I do keep a list of recommendations, such as THE MAP OF LOST MEMORIES. And I always have to read certain authors like the other Reds when their books come out.
HALLIE EPHRON: For pleasure, I'm a completely random reader. Often I read what my daughters recommend - so right now that's THE SHINING GIRLS (a time traveling serial killer).
But I also have a regular book review column I write for the Boston Globe - 3 books every other month. And about those I am rigidly systematic. I have to get a running start, because I can often start 3 or 4 books before I find one that I really like, and because I get to review so few, I prefer to review (and read!) books that I like.
LUCY BURDETTE: I would never make a reading resolution. For me, that would be like making a resolution to eat! Good lord, or like reminding myself to breathe:). I read every night as a treat--some mysteries including all the Reds, but lots of women's fiction to clear my mysterious palate, and I also love memoirs. I've just finished a very sweet book called THE PATRON SAINT OF LOST DOGS, by Nick Trout, and now reading HOME OF THE BRAISED by Julie Hyzy. Then next I'll choose from DAY OF HONEY (a memoir of "food, love and war"), ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK, or Wally Lamb's WE ARE WATER.
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Planning ? Planning? No, not at all. Never. And in terms of making a goal? My goal is to stay awake for more than three pages. (I often read in bed.) And you know, that's a good barometer--when I find a book that keeps me awake, I know I have a keeper. How do I choose? Oh, gosh, yeah, random.
The last one that did that was David Ellis's THE LAST ALIBI. And Gregg Hurwitz's ..oh, what was it called? YOU'RE NEXT. I'm a reading Michael Connolly's new one now, love it,, and next is Elisabeth Elo's NORTH OF BOSTON. I have been hearing good things! And I want to read Marcus Sakey's BRLLIANCE and the new Lisa Gardner. I'm getting a lot of ARCs these days..and am mesmerized by M.E. Cooley's ICE SHEAR--watch for it! And Lynn Raimondo's DANTE's POISON.
SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: Like Hallie, I'm a completely random reader. And, I suspect, like the other Jungle Reds, I have a huge pile of galleys from people who want blurbs as well as fellow authors' galleys to read. This, on top of all the non-fiction for my own work, makes the to-read pile pretty intimidating.
However, I do love to read in bed last thing at night, and I consider that my time. Right now I'm reading Donna Tartt's THE GOLDFINCH, as well as Ean McEwan's SWEET TOOTH, and T.H. White's THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING. I just finished rereading BRIDESHEAD REVISITED because I was apartment-sitting and plant watering for our neighbors down the hall over the holidays, picked it up just to reread the first chapter — and then of course I had to finish it!
My idea of the Best Vacation Ever is a beach/reading vacation. A whole week with nothing to do but lie in a chaise lounge by the pool and read, read, read.....
As far as keeping track, I like to keep an Amazon wish list--not that I buy everything there, but they make it very easy to add something to a list. Ditto with Goodreads--I have a healthy "to be read" shelf on that site.
JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Remember, Rhys, you'll also need a cabana boy on that desert island, to keep the champagne on ice and dust the bookshelves.
Like everyone else, I have a lot of "required" reading that gets in the way of just plopping down and letting myself dive into anything I want. So a reading goal - x number of books or a survey of this or that author - wouldn't work for me. What I DO want to try in 2014 is keeping a book journal. I get so frustrated when someone asks me, "what are you reading?" or we do one of our book recommendation posts here on JRW, because half the time, I can't recall the name or author of the great book I devoured just last month!
Does anyone have any suggestions for a really good-looking book journal to make it easier for me?
DEBS: Okay, I'm signing up for Rhys's desert island read-a-thon! And my idea of a dream vacation is the same as Susan's--books-hammock-beach. Sigh. And a little secret? When I go to London on my own and I don't have to do my normal daily home routine, I READ. A LOT.
Susan, I'm jealous you've reread BRIDESHEAD and are re-reading THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING, which is one of my favorite books ever. I think it formed a large chunk of my moral/world view.
Julia, the photo of the journal is the inside front page of one I got as a gift from a great library. I love it because it gives you a place for the title, author, date, and comments. I'm sure you can find a similar one somewhere. Now, if I will just use mine...
(The photos, by the way, are of my to-read pile on the upstairs bedside table, the downstairs bedside
table, and most overwhelming of all, the to-read shelves in my office, two thirds pared down after last year's great book purge. And the lovely photos are by my friend Steve Ullathorne.)
I think we have a pretty good consensus that we are all random readers. So, JRW READERS, what about you? Organized readers? Resolutions? Good suggestions for journals and keeping track?