Monday, January 4, 2010


So I've started. One book down (Gilgamesh) and about to polish off my second. In case you're wondering, the last few reviews are of books I read prior to starting this 100 books in 1 year journey that I talked about in this post. I'll continue to post a few here and there to keep things colorful, and to solicit opinions on my reviews, of course. They won't count toward my 100 this year.

Anyhow, it's time I go over my thinking on the confines of this absurd challenge. After all, as a friend pointed out on New Year's Eve, I could just read a bunch of Goosebumps books and be done with it all. So a brief Q&A on how I see the rules:

Do essays count?

I'm not going to have much, if I have any at all. I've been looking askance at my copy of Civil Disobedience, realizing I only read a couple excerpts from it in high school. It's short, but I'd like to read it, and it's an important work. I think I'll err toward collections of essays, but if something's important I will make exceptions. The rule is traditional books, however.

What about plays?

Similar to essays - depends, but edging toward no. A few recommended works of the Bard, yes. Reading 50 plays... not so much.

Graphic novels?

Once again, not reading comic books here. However, Maus I is on my list, I've been meaning to read it for a while, it brings diversity to the list, and it seems like it defines critically acclaimed.

Can I skim, or do I have to absorb every word?

I'm not going to skim through these books, though I imagine I'll end up in some technical writing in some of these books that I won't be able to absorb, and I might skim here and there. No more than I usually do, and that's not in the spirit of this challenge.

What if I've already read it?

Cover to cover: disqualified. It'd be cheating, and there's no benefit. If I've read part of it, I'm making an exception, where I'd skim through parts I know in order to get to the unread parts. There are only a few I can think of that fit this category, however (Red Mars, and Bloodchild and other Stories where I've read one story but not the rest). Again, exceptions but not the rule.

As a corollary, I'm about to finish The Oxford History of U.S. Foreign Relations. Four days beyond my goal (an inauspicious start to 2010), but I'm hooked and there's no way I wasn't finishing all 1030 pages. I've got less than 100 pages to go, and because I've read 300-400 pages since New year's Eve, I'm going to provisionally count it toward my 100. Of course I'll try to read another to make up for it having been partially read in 2009, but I feel comfortable including it, given my investment. It'll also be interesting to talk about.

What if I don't want to finish?

I can't think of the last time I decided not to finish a book. I usually don't pick up just anything, so I'll usually power through to the end to see how bad it was, or if the author fixes it in the end, or where things end up. I suppose I might come across this situation with 100 books though, and I'm going to say right now I'll at least try to skim to the end. If I absolutely can't finish, I should at least have enough interesting things to say that it'll make a good blog post about the experience. More than halfway through, I'll count it. Less, I have to try again.

Do I have to actually read it or can I listen to an audiobook, or be driving and have a passenger read aloud to me?

I think both of these are perfectly valid ways of reading a book. They require different ways of focusing attention, but it's how a big chunk of the reading public experiences how authors tell stories, and I'd be doing myself a disservice if I didn't try them out. On this note, I'll be trying out a family member's Kindle at some point this year, to see how different mediums affect the way you read things.

Any questions of how I'm handling this whole idea? I'm sure there are things I haven't even thought of yet. The goal is to add to my "read" pile and learn a heck of a lot in the process about the books' subject matter, new vocabulary, my literary proclivities, and literacy in general. I'm trying to make the rules enable those goals as much as I can.

I'm also trying to make them in such a way as to preserve my sanity, and my wife's.

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