interior of large cylinder of stacked books

The State of the Read Me Project, 2023

Yes! In 2022, I DID repeat my unexpected accomplishment of 2021, and read more books than I acquired!! This was despite my family (I love you all!) trying to wreck my stats at the last minute – i.e., Christmas – by getting me presents they knew I would like.

Here are the vitals: in 2022, I added 46 books to the stacks. I read and removed 53. (OK, full disclosure, I read them and moved them to a different part of the office. There’s a “to be shelved, or possibly given away” shelf now. It’s a factor in my new-found respect for e-books.)

That’s fewer books than I read the year before. In my defense, it was a busy year: new job, on top of our daughter marrying our new son-in-law. Even so, this represents progress of seven volumes, net, towards “reading all these books before I die.” That’s absolute numerical progress vis-à-vis the year before. And “forty percent (40%) more books taken off the Read Me List.” Truth.

That “absolute numerical progress” and “40% more” was encouraging. So encouraging, in fact, that I decided I could tackle the “at that rate” challenge after all. I’d avoided “at that rate” thinking thus far, expecting the results might reveal my goal to be … absolutely utopian.

There are 139 books in the “Read Me” stack at the moment, after Christmas, and after going to the bookstore on New Year’s to get a calendar. That’s probably like going to the bakery “to get napkins” or going to the liquor store “to get olives.” I did get a calendar. And note cards. And a few more books.

Technically, I think this is a “related rates” problem, which makes it a calculus problem. But taking these periodic “net change” measurements reduces it to a workable arithmetic one. At the rate of a net seven book annual reduction, I’ll be getting that stack of 139 books down to 0 in just under twenty years.

I could live that long. Possibly. Although I’d need to live longer than 83% of my nearest ancestors. Aiming for a more rapid rate of reduction seems advisable.

As for this year’s lessons learned:

  • The effort to read a few more long books, a bit at a time over a longer period of time, paid off. I’d hoped to finish a book a month that way. I managed fewer than that, but more than none. That’s something I definitely plan to continue.
  • There may be some “low-hanging fruit” to take advantage of. Like reading all [two of] the books whose authors’ names start with “Z,” which I managed in 2022. I’ve learned that gives an energizing, albeit somewhat illusory, feeling that I’m making progress. “I” or “E” seem promising in that regard. So does going through the stacks looking for skinny books.
  • I keep thinking there ought to be some “curriculum” implicit in this project, which makes me wonder whether I ought not group some of these books by topic. Like, “all the philosophy” or “all the ones on Islam.” Mostly I’ve just been using the LIFO method, which works for the new acquisitions, but doesn’t provide much guidance for choosing books from the stacks. And surprisingly, identifying “what I’m going to read next” seems to help.
  • I want to be able to reflect on all this reading, more than I’ve been doing. That’s the whole point of this exercise, isn’t it? Or, if not the whole point, then one of the points, and certainly part of the fun. I’m still working out how to do that without feeling compelled to write more whole reviews, which seem to stack up like the books themselves.
  • I’m still pretending I can do all this without giving up TV murder mysteries. Or too much sleep. We’ll have to see how long I can keep that pretense up.

This Read Me Project has taken on something of a life of its own, honestly. I don’t mind too much. I’ve learned a few things along the way. And I’m sure I’ve read more of these books than I would have if I hadn’t started paying attention.

So, here’s to 2023! And … three-peat … three-peat … three-peat …

A circular view of an endless stack of books
Yes, I am going to read all these books. Before …

Image: Sculpture made of books in the Prague Municipal Library – by Deror_avi, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons; By August Dominus (Own work) – [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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