Three years ago I started to keep a record of every book I read. This helped to motivate me to finish reading books I had started. I realised I had far too many partially read books on my shelves.
Here are my reading stats from the beginning of that exercise.
2009: 10 books (from early November to end of year)
2010: 63 books
2011: 47 books
2012 to 7 August: 25 books
Total: 145 books to date.
During that time I have rarely given up on a book I started reading. From memory I can only recall three.
This year I’ve struggled a little. It’s been harder for a book to maintain my interest. I’m not sure whether that’s due to my state of mind or the kind of books I’ve been reading. Therefore my progress has been slower.
Fiction hasn’t interested me so much recently, so I haven’t come across many of those “can’t put down” novels.
Mostly I’ve been reading art related books, trying to overcome a lifetime’s ignorance of art and artists. Those books are often heavily illustrated with reproductions of art works, so it’s not just a matter of reading all of the text and putting the book into a completed pile. I return to them for ideas and inspiration, considering the techniques used and thinking of ways I can try them in my own paintings.
This whole, recording exercise was initially linked to a perceived need to read more diligently. I had become increasingly disappointed with the direction of my working life; stuck in an office day after day doing work in which I had no interest. The possibility of an escape was becoming less likely.
Over the years I’ve made two serious attempts to change my employment situation.
20 years ago I left 13 years of work behind to commence full time University study as a “mature age student”. I spent three years studying creative writing and English literature with the hope of becoming a professional writer. I did very well and loved the experience. Then came a year of unemployment after which I eventually found myself back in the type of administrative office work I’d tried to leave behind.
12 years later I tried another escape route. I left my job, I sold my home, and moved from the city to a country town 4 hours inland. I had no firm plan of what I would do but my hopes were high. I started with casual farm work, stacking supermarket shelves and anything else that came along. The “anything else” included a few weeks working in an office. Those few weeks stretched out until four years had passed. Here I am again, different office but same old situation.
Back to the “need” to read more diligently.
When I started the reading exercise I was hoping to reignite a passion for writing – the only thing that seemed like it could offer a viable way out. It has been a recurring ambition: the ONLY realistic ambition I recall having even in childhood (I rule out trapeze artist, a fleeting idea I had after seeing a Burt Lancaster movie).
All of the advice I’ve seen given to prospective writers is their need to read, read a lot and read widely. My own reading had slipped away significantly over the years since I left university, until I found myself rarely reading at all. By rediscovering the pleasures of reading I hoped to find my way back to writing. But sadly, three years after starting the reading project, I’m no closer to achieving anything more than writing regular blog entries.