American Book Acquisitions and 2019 Reading Goals

We arrived in the UK on January 1, after an overnight flight from Baltimore. There was no midnight announcement, no complimentary champagne; nothing. Clearly I had my hopes too high. So we’re feeling a bit cheated out of our New Year’s Eve experience and will be doing a recreated countdown and toast when we have houseguests over for this Epiphany weekend.

It was a low-key, relaxing couple of weeks back in the States, the majority of it spent seeing family and friends. We also made it into D.C. to see the new Obama portraits. Mostly I enjoyed doing not a lick of work. And I acquired books, of course: a secondhand and remainder stack that, after my trade-in of some cast-off books, cost just $4; and a few ARCs I’m excited about.

 

2019 Goals

I’m feeling restless in my career, like if someone gave me permission to quit all my gigs I would do it tomorrow. But, of course, only a fool would do so with no plan to replace them with other remunerative work. The year is likely to involve a lot of rethinking for me as I evaluate which of my proofreading and writing jobs feel worthwhile, and what’s taking me in the direction I want to go (not that I currently know what that is).

Life is awfully hard to plan out. Reading is much easier! So here are my fairly modest reading goals for the year, some of them overlapping:

  • I plan to reinstate the Classic and Doorstopper of the month features I ran in 2017, since otherwise I hardly ever read them. I’m starting with Annabel’s readalong of The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco, which is just over 500 pages but also conveniently falls into one of the below categories.
The doorstoppers I have around to choose from.
  • I’ll make a second attempt at getting through some of the travel books and biographies I own, though I won’t hold myself to any particular target. At least five of each would be nice.
  • I’m determined to up my literature in translation ratio. These are all the books I own that were originally published in other languages – pitiful! – but I will get hold of more through the library and publishers.

  • Re-reading is something I undertake very reluctantly. I have friends who swear by it, but to me it can feel like a waste of time. Last year I re-read just four books: Little Women, Give Me Everything You Have, Crossing the Moon, and Diary of a Bookseller. In each case, on the second reading I rated the book a star lower. That suggests that, far from appreciating books more on a second reading, I have less patience with them and find more flaws! All the same, I’ve chosen four books to re-read in 2019. The Collins is a longtime favorite about moving to Hay-on-Wye; the Thomas is one of the books that first got me into reading memoirs. I’ve been let down by Lamott’s latest three books so wanted to go back to one of her spiritual classics; I’ve gotten into L’Engle’s writing for adults and want to revisit her most famous children’s book (which I don’t think I comprehended at age nine or whatever I was).

  • I have a bad habit of racing through self-help and theology books rather than taking my time mulling over them and fully exploring how I might apply them in my life. This was especially true of The Artist’s Way, one of my bibliotherapy prescriptions. I started out with the aim of completing the daily “morning pages” of free writing (though for me they were ‘evening pages’; I’m not a morning person) and each chapter’s self-knowledge exercises. But soon I’d given up on the writing and contemplation and begun just reading the book straight through, which is not the point of it at all. So this year I mean to go back through the Cameron and Rubin books more mindfully, and use the McLaren devotional as it is intended, reading the recommended Bible passages alongside the weekly reflections.

What are some of your goals (reading-related or otherwise) for 2019?

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34 thoughts on “American Book Acquisitions and 2019 Reading Goals

  1. So many temptations when I’m trying not to buy books! I didn’t live Lamott’s Bird by Bird but I would be interested to read her on faith – is this her best book in this arena, do you think?

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  2. You have some exciting doorstoppers lined up – loved The Stranger’s Child and A Suitable Boy.

    Re-reading is a funny one – I wanted to do a lot more last year but ended up only re-reading about 15 books, an improvement on previous years, but not many in total. I do often get more out of books on a re-read, but find it hard to prioritise with so many new novels. In my early twenties I used to re-read a lot more.

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    1. I re-read compulsively as a child but I feel like I’ve lost the knack. I hope to like these four as much as, or more than, I did reading them the first time. I feel sure I’ll get more out of the L’Engle, at least, as an adult.

      I’m wondering what would ever motivate me enough to pick up A Suitable Boy…

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      1. I LOVED A Suitable Boy. It took me a long time to get round to it due to length as well, but when I reached the end, I could have read another 1000+ pages… When are we getting A Suitable Girl?

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  3. I remember re-reading John Fowles book The Magus a couple of years ago. How I absolutely LOVED that book when I first read it in the early 80s. And how I disliked it when I read it again – pretentious nonsense! Fowles seems to be a writer whose books have dated quickly and badly!

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    1. I read The Magus some years back and jumped right to the pretentious nonsense opinion 😉 However, I would like to re-read The French Lieutenant’s Woman due to my continuing love of Victorian pastiche.

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  4. You’ve got some lovely doorstop treats in the offing: The Quincunx, A Fine Balance, Cutting for Stone (right up your medical street!) and Kavalier and Clay, all brilliant. It looks like you have your reading plans sewn up for a while. Good luck with you career rethink, Rebecca.

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  5. Poor you. Career dissatisfaction is difficult. I hope you find a way forward. As to re-reading. Often I find it rewarding, but sometimes, like you and Penny, it makes me wonder why I read them in the first place. Though John Fowles never did it for me. Actually I’ve been wondering about re-reading more. It seems tough on an author to give their heart and soul to a book, for the reader to despatch it in perhaps three hours.

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    1. I see what you mean. (Probably more like six hours for me; I’m a slow reader!) All of the books that I keep on my shelves, rather than reselling/donating, etc. are ones that I think would be worth rereading or referring to in the future, or at least giving to a friend.

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  6. Good luck on the work/career front. I have started culling my client work, actually occasionally saying no! This frees up (a tiny bit of) time for more creative writing, though that, for now, makes me nothing. What can we do? Plod along. Do what we can bear, even if we don’t like it, in order to buy groceries and survive, keep working and connecting. I’ve definitely concentrated, this past year, on being a good “literary citizen” though that phrase is irksome. Sharing the work of others more, getting out and meeting writers, connecting with writers through social media. We’re all in this together, right??

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    1. I cut back on a couple of my gigs recently and will probably turn down work from another when the time comes. With the extra hours I’d like to think about more long-term projects. But the jobs I can tolerate I am sticking with for now. You’re right, that’s all we can do!

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  7. Whichever useless airline flew you Baltimore back to London: ban them from your travel directory! A boringly low-key start to 2019. A good time of year to re-think your coming year’s activities : work and of course, reading! You are brave to contemplate plunging into a doorstopper and you do have some terrifying options. I shall not be following you; ditto the re-reads. But each to their own. John Fowles’ books have not aged well – I agree with other comments. Way back when I read The Magus and was blown away – will definitely not attempt a re-read after the warnings from others above.

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    1. Well, this is Austerity Britain, so I shouldn’t have expected more from British Airways! We alternate between them and Virgin Atlantic; whoever’s cheaper for a particular flight.

      I can be wary of taking on doorstoppers — after all, why not read four books of 125 pages than one of 500? But there’s something special about getting stuck into a big ol’ story, so I hope that some of these work out for me.

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  8. First off She’s Come Undone is brilliant. I am continuing my Iris Murdoch re-reading programme (fourth time!) and finishing her off in her centenary year. I hope to get to the big conference, although it clashes with my big run. I will also do 20 books of summer and all Virago all August as usual, but as usual all off my TBR. I also plan to “work less and read more” though not sure how that will pan out. Oh and I’m happy to have an email or instant messenger or even – shock – meet up for a cuppa if you could do with a career sounding board, as I have my toes in many waters in those areas.

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    1. It’s my first from Wally Lamb and I’m really enjoying it. His style reminds me of John Irving’s, and certain particulars of the story remind me of White Oleander as well.

      I’ll pop back in for The Sacred and Profane Love Machine, the last of the Murdochs I own in paperback. I didn’t realize we were coming up on the centenary.

      If you’re going to be down London way any time, let me know!

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  9. Cutting for Stone was such a great read. One of those books that you wonder what took you so long to get to. And lots of medical stuff in it!

    Good luck figuring out your next moves! It’s not easy, but can be exciting. I’ve been taking on more hours at the library. It means less time for blogging, but I really like being there! 🙂

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  10. I like your reading goals, and hope that you can achieve your life ones this year too.
    I really ought to power through some of the chunksters on my shelves, I loved The Quincunx and the Scarlett Thomas by the way, and I would be very happy to buddy read the Michael Chabon with you if you’d like? I hope you do manage to up your literature in translation – although I don’t read masses, I always enjoy authors from other nationalities’ diverse styles and insight into their countries which can be really refreshing.
    My main goal is to read more of my own books, buy fewer, and visit the library – I now have a card!

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    1. I’m proud of you for joining your local library 🙂 I hope you’ll enjoy using it. It’s great for new books you’re not sure about, can’t easily find elsewhere, or don’t otherwise feel you need to own.

      Sure, a buddy read of the Chabon would be great. I’ll consult with you later on which month to do it. Any preference?

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    1. I can see how you’d be tempted by all the new books arriving to your library. I’ve always thought you maintain a good balance between popular new books and backlist reads. I hope you’ll enjoy your year’s reading!

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  11. How interesting that you tend to like books less the second time around. I always tell myself to reread a book I loved, but I share your feelings of impatience—like yeah, yeah, yeah, I already know this. Maybe some people find comfort in the repetition and some just don’t. Interesting to think about! Good luck with your 2019 reading goals!

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  12. What impressive stacks. (In lieu of an impressive airborne new year’s celebration.) Is that Ahab’s Wife in the stack? I loved that one. I would love to reread A Fine Balance. And I have never read the Chabon and would very much like to. But I”m not sure my timing will fit with you and Annabel – when is that prize again? And please don’t reschedule on my account, I’m just curious – and perhaps it’s later in the year than I am remembering.

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