I declared 2009 the Year of Planned Reading, but that was a failure too. I didn't plan my reading, and what I did instead (set wildly ambitious goals, binge on armloads of books from the college library) just kind of set me up to feel like a failure. I had a good reading year in 2009, but I completely failed at even the most basic thing: I didn't keep track of the books I read. To tell you what I read I would have to rely on my memory, which we know to be lousy, and my interest in going back to recreate a list, which sounds really boring to me. I read a lot of books, good and bad. I probably read more books last year than I have in previous years, but it would be impossible to confirm that, since I haven't been keeping track.
So the Year of Planned Reading was mostly a bust. But I did get a few things out of it, which are below. I'm most excited about my new tracking system for 2010.
First, I recognized that if I want to read seriously (and I do, I really do.) I need to set aside time for reading beyond the half hour in bed. So I've started doing that, and it is fabulous. One of my favorite things to do on a weeknight or a weekend morning is to sit beside NBT on the sofa, each reading our own book. It means I need to say no to a lot more stuff that would steal away that precious time. I'm not great about doing that, but I'm learning to guard reading time.
I read "How To Read A Book" and that was helpful. It reminded me that I don't need to read everything the same way. Skimming first is okay. A serious book will probably need to be read twice, and a crappy book doesn't deserve a careful read anyway. So you skim first, to figure out what you're reading it for and whether it deserves more careful attention. Taking notes may or may not help.
I gave my book group a quiz, and that was really fun. It's more interesting to think about what I didn't understand about a book than to congratulate myself on what I did understand. (That's part of a shift in thinking that I'm noticing over the last couple of years -- asking what I don't know and what I can get better at makes life a lot more engaging and gives me a purposeful intention that's way more satisfying than the tempting approach of noticing all the stuff I'm good at or that comes easily to me.) For the books that deserve it, I'm trying to engage more, by linking them up with other books or trying to figure out where the gaps are in what they're purporting to cover.
For 2010, I am really excited about my new system. The photo is of an index card box. Inside there are three sections: "To Read", "Checked Out/In Progress" and "Read". When I hear about a book I want to read I write it on its own index card -- title, author, year if it's important, and if I'm on the library website investigating it, call numbers -- and throw it in the "To Read" section. This replaces a million scraps of paper or book lists where I used to jot down recommendations,nd then lose them. When I get it on my shelf it goes into the "In Progress" section and the index card goes in the book, so I can jot down some notes if I want, or a quick plot summary. When it's done, it goes into the "Read" section. I use a colored pencil on the edge of the card to categorize the books: yellow means it's a book group book; red means it's part of the Brain Project; blue means it's "Other". I might have to further categorize -- I read a number books related to my work, and should probably track those separately from the Patrick O'Brian novels that I will be gobbling up in free moments. I am thrilled every time I move a card from one section to the next, or even add a new "To Read" card.