2015/2016 Readathon Wrap-up and Why I Don’t [Often] Read “Classics”

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I haven’t written much about this year’s readathon, which ended on April 1st.  That’s because compared to the build-up, drama, and big numbers of last year, this year seems rather modest.

72 books

24,254 pages

337 pages-per-book average

30 new-to-me books

2 classics

When compared to the other six years I’ve been recording what I read, 2015/2016 is actually a little above average, numbers-wise.  And darn it, I’m going to let myself be proud of that!

As I read — as tends to happen — I learned something:

I Don’t [Often] Read Classics. And That’s Okay.

I began this readathon with the goal of reading one classic book per month.  Remember that?  The goal I abandoned after only two classics? (Out of Africa and North and South, by the way.)

There are several reasons why I failed so hard in the classics department.  Because I’m a stubborn, intuitive reader.  I read what I feel like reading. If that means I want to reread the entire Betsy-Tacy series, then so be it (totally happened). Because for the past few years, I’ve been drawn to contemporary fiction and nonfiction, which has yet to receive a “classic” designation [here I could launch into a separate rant about the subjectivity of “classics”].  Because I was busy this year studying for the GRE and applying to graduate schools, and at the end of a long day, wasn’t willing to read something that took additional brain power.  Because after my undergraduate English major days of slogging through a challenging text and then sitting in a sparsely-heated (not a complaint; part of its charm) basement room in the Humanities Building to talk about it with a group of classmates-turned-friends, I can’t quite resign myself to slogging all alone.

I know all classics aren’t necessarily “slogs.”  I know I’m often intimidated by them, and that by now, I shouldn’t be. They’re just books, and if they seem harder to get through than non-classics, it’s because they’re using dated formats and styles and language, or because they’re frequently abstract and almost certainly complex.  But I’m fairly bright; I could read them if I wanted to.  The thing is, I don’t often want to.

I’ve since made peace with this classics aversion of mine.  I read for fun.  Classics for me aren’t always enjoyable.  And so I’m rarely going to be one of those people who sits down with a Tolstoy.  Tolstoy is great.  I’ve read him before, and I’ll read him again, but if you give me a choice between Tolstoy and, say, The Goldfinch, I’ll probably choose the bird.

And hey, if this makes me a “lazy” reader or a “bad” reader, so be it, although I think book shaming — not so very different from book burning — is a horrendous, damaging thing.  Read what you want, friends.  Read what brings you life, whether that’s Tolstoy or The Goldfinch or the latest Nicholas Sparks.  You’re safe here.

And so, to end this lengthy explanation, it was mostly wishful thinking on my part to make that classics goal for myself.  I was making a goal based on the type of reader I thought I should be rather than the one I want to be.  I want to be the kind of reader who writes in the margins, who learns from books more than the internet, who has read the latest young adult bestseller and the latest David McCullough biography.  I want to be the kind of reader who stalks The New York Times’ books section, who takes friends’ recommendations seriously, who writes ranting reviews on Goodreads when the sequel was terrible.  Most of all, I want to be a joyful reader; stories are dear to me, and I never want to neglect to fill my life with the most beautiful ones.

With that, let’s talk about what I have been reading since April 1, 2015:

Book Awards

Best Fiction: A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

Best Non-Fiction: In the Heart of the Sea, Fun Home, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography

Best New-to-Me Genre: In the Woods

Most Thought-Provoking: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

Best Love Story: Everything, Everything

Best Nostalgia Read: Emily of Deep Valley (my favorite of the Betsy-Tacy books)

Regrets, I’ve Had a Few: After You (sequel to my beloved Me Before You)

What’s Next

Um … graduate school? Honestly, I can’t say what my reading will look like this year, because I don’t know how much time I’ll have.  I’ll certainly be reading books for class discussions and for my own research (both of which count!), but for-fun books?  I have no idea.

So I make no “what I’ll read” or “how much I’ll read” goal.  Instead, I plan to have a summer full of rich, joyful, out-of-doors reading, and wait with bated breath to see what graduate school has in store.  Exciting, isn’t it?

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More posts about books: 

My favorite bookstore in the world

If You Liked This, Read That

I ask my friends: what’s One Book Everyone Should Read?

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