Monday, January 23, 2006

Books Read This Year

I read somewhere over on the book blog The Millions about the rewards of keeping track of what books you read. Helps your memory recall, the entry went. Keeps the books with you longer. And so that was enough to push me over the edge (I'd been thinking about doing such a thing myself) and turn my "Now Reading" sidebar into one promising "Books Read This Year."

But because this is the age when truth is negotiable, something that can be bartered down to the "essential truth" or the "best available truth at the time, and remember -- the same truth had by the Germans and the British," I thought I should explain what "Books Read This Year" means -- or rather, what it doesn't mean.

"Books Read This Year" does not mean these are books that I've read this year. It's very possible that the books on this list will be those I've read, and this year at that, but it's just as possible that I've only flipped through them, picked out a story or two, and then moved on, just as I've very possibly done in previous years.

Take Anton Chekhov. (Please, they say in the Poconos.) I've got his collected stories listed, but I'm still moving through it, two or three stories at a time, with no real passion to hurry up my pace.

Then too I must explain "This Year." It should not be considered a hard truth, delineated by the borders of those opposing months, January and December. For example, I started Underworld in November of 2005 (after aborted readings in 2004, 2001, and 1999), but I finished it in January, so it qualifies. Same for Heart of a Dog; I began it last year, shot it dead last month.

As for On Beauty, it qualifies for the list even though I'm in the midst of it. So "Read" should not make you think of a completed action; it can very well mean the present progressive.

(Did I tell you I've considered a job as a political speechwriter? I think I could thrive in Washington. Know anyone?)

So, make a list of your own and play along at home, or just watch me redoubling my reading efforts each time I look at my list and feel a great shame. That's all I've read? And I'm a writer? And it's June?