30 November 2011

Books Make Me Insane, Which Means That I Have No Idea What Sanity Feels Like

My life with books is not sane. Books are my passion, but I can't seem to get any focus. It has always been this way. I've tried capturing my reading life with lists, reviews, this blog and I can't. I just can't. This doesn't mean that I will stop trying, because it is my nature to do so.

This post might come off a bit incoherent, but that's okay. If so, it will accurately reflect my state of mind vis-a-vis books, which is slavish and frustrated.

I must accept that I will never gain control of this process. Let me see if I can explain what the problem is, if indeed it is a problem, which is not a given:

Ever since I can remember I have always had a dozen or so books going at once. Some of these books are read in a day or two, some in a year or two. One famous example, Mating by Norman Rush (awesome, unusual book), took me nine years because a) it was so chewy and b) I didn't want it to end, ever. That was the first time. The second time only took a week or so.

Maybe a description of the current state of affairs will help:

The Guards by Ken Bruen. This arrived in the mail yesterday. I had ordered it because I am in the midst of reading The Line-Up, ed. Otto Penzler, which has a dozen or twenty well-known detective writers telling how they created their famous detectives. I don't remember how I found the Penzler book, but I bought it because Carol O'Connell has a piece about Mallory in it. Behind the scenes with Mallory? Irresistible. So after I'd read the essays by the authors I'd read previously: Rankin, Lescroart, Alexander McCall Smith, I read the brief bios of all the other authors. And then I began reading about the detectives from the beginning (alpha by author). Ken Bruen was up first. I was smitten. I ordered The Guards. It's a quick read and will probably be finished tomorrow. I will probably order Killing Orders by Lee Child next, because his Jack Reacher sounds quite interesting.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. This one is almost done, but I'm drawing out the end because I don't want it to end. It is fantasy and horror and it has the most unusual photographs. It is very popular this year, and I'll jump on the bandwagon. I hope there's a sequel.

Bleak House by Charles Dickens. I have been reading this for about a year. I am about a third of the way through. I recently bought a different edition because I don't like the mass market paperback I'd started reading it in. So I bought a trade paperback, with illustrations by Phiz, b/c that was recommended by someone in my online literary society. I want to complete it before I start group reads of The Gormenghast Trilogy by Mervyn Peake and Moby-Dick in January. But other books keep drawing me away....

Villette by Charlotte Bronte. This book is awesome, and I want to discuss pieces of it as I read it, so look for that. However it is a bit heavy, and I needed to take a break from heavy books, so I read I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith last week. How had I gone my whole life without reading ICtC? A travesty. If you haven't read this book about an eccentric, formerly wealthy English family living in a crumbling castle trying to figure out how to make ends meet and told by an aspiring writer who misses nothing, well, you should go read it now.

Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem. I'm struggling through this one. It's a good book, but it's not propelling itself forward. I enjoy it when I read it, mostly, but I'm not really relating much to the characters: a fish out of water white boy in 70s Brooklyn, his black best friend who barely acknowledges his presence, their fathers: a frustrated visual artist and a frustrated recording artist, respectively. I suspect it is one of those books that will become page-turner-y about halfway through. Either way, I'll finish it because Lethem is one of those modern authors I feel I should have some experience of. But maybe I should have picked Motherless Brooklyn instead.

I would like to finish Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, but it's gone missing.

And as if this isn't bad enough, I guarantee you that there are two or three that I have forgotten. I am currently reading books that I have forgotten that I am reading, but when I come across them today or next week, I will pick them up right where I left off.

And then there's the backlog of Early Review books. Ach! What is wrong with me?

I will finish probably another dozen books before I finish this entire list.

I tried to organize my reading at the end of last year by making this fabulous reading list (exhibit via right sidebar) and I stuck to it for about seven months, and felt very edified. And then one day I started reading P.D. James mysteries and didn't stop until I'd read all 17 of them, more or less in order, one after the other, and nothing else, which is so out-of-character. Maybe a tight reading schedule isn't my thing? After the James, I went into heavy chick lit mode, which I was, thank god, led out of by Jane Austen, the unintentional high priestess of chick lit. There's some really excellent chick lit out there, but you've got kiss a lot frogs to find it, ya know?

I read too fast to review most of what I read.

This is my life.


  1. CG, I feel so much better after reading your post. I usually have at least five or six going at once, and my wife gives me no end of grief for it. And whenever I add another to the reading pile, she has a fit. But I just can't help it! And working in a library definitely doesn't help.

    And speaking of chick lit, one of the books I'm currently reading is Northanger Abbey, and it's fantastic! I'm loving it. I had never read Austen before and am really looking forward to the rest of her works.

  2. At least you actually finish some books (eventually). I get distracted so easily and probably only finish maybe one in ten. I should write about this and follow your lead and maybe mine some insight as to why this occurs. Been a particularly bad year for me in that regard, as my low review count, compared to previous years, attests.

  3. Oh, Bubba! Discovering Austen! I came to her late myself and just last month I finished Emma, which was the last complete novel of hers that I hadn't read. I tried to space them out so it took me about 3 years to read the six. I will probably re-read Mansfield Park and Northanger Abbey this coming year.

    And, yeah, tell Mrs Bubba that it could be worse. She could be married to me.

    Btw, I remembered what else I'm reading: Jar City by Arnuld Irand??Icelandic??sson and Clash of Kings by George RR Martin. Have a nagging feeling there's another one or two out there.

  4. Good luck, EF! Thus far, insight has not been mined, but I'll be patient.

  5. And with all of us around just to keep suggesting more....

    I'm with Enrique, simply impressed that you're finishing some of these after protracted times. It's not uncommon for me to pull a book I've been wanting to read off the shelves, find a bookmark in it, and think, oh, yeah, I remember starting this!