Monthly Archives: December 2005

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Woohoo, I did it! I finished two books, and my list of books to read is actually two books shorter! With that Border’s gift card burning a hole in my pocket, I am not sure how much longer I can keep this trend up, but it’s a good feeling to be chipping away at that list.

Today I finished The Know-It-All (One Man’s Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World) by A.J. Jacobs. This is one of the funniest books I have read in a long time. The kind of funny where I had to put the book down so that I could laugh. The kind of funny where I would burst into giggles at random times when I would remember something I read in it. Great book!

Next, I am going to turn back to my Martha Grimes mysteries. These are generally quick reads, but the next one in the series has 432 pages. Combined with the kids coming back today, I fear this means I won’t be finishing another book for a while, but at least I am enjoying what I am reading. For a long time I was doing most of my book buying from the bargain table. Sometimes this is a good thing–I have gotten books that I really wanted, in hardbook, for $5-7. I found some really great books that I would never have searched out that way (most notably, off the top of my head: My Little Blue Dress by Bruno Maddox), but it has a couple of problems, too. First off, I end up buying books that I really don’t want, just because they are on the bargain table. I do this especially when they are having “Buy 4 Bargain Books, get the 5th Free” sales. As if getting one of the book free is more important than getting books I actually want. Also, obviously, not all books make it to the bargain table. These are mostly hardcover books that are getting ready to come out in paperback. Once the paperbacks come out, it is a lot harder to convince people to pay $30 for the hardcover, so they get thrown on the bargain table at prices comparable to the paperback. So, whole categories of books are ruled out here–books that came out a long time ago and have been in paperback for ages, books that never came out in hardcover, books that were extremely popular, even in hardcover, and probably something else that is not coming to mind right now.

I have a friend who buys most of her books from the bargain table. She prefers hardcover books, and she buys a lot of books, so the bargain table works best for her. I like hardcover books, too, but I can’t stand limiting myself to one small section of the bookstore, no matter how good the deals are there. This is all reading to me like an elaborate justification for my geekiness, but this Excel workbook with the list of books I want to buy is really working for me. I can branch out from the bargain table without worrying that I am going to waste my money on books I really won’t like. Also, it’s a much less daunting way to investigate various sections of the bookstore. I can head to the Sociology section with at least one book that I know I want, and feel free to browse for others. Or the History section, or whatever.

Or maybe the justification thing is more accurate. But I like the image of being an adventurer, even if it is just in the bookstore. And, at least one area of my life feels totally organized, which is a very cool anomaly.

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Hey, I forgot to mention yesterday that I have the best brother ever. Or possibly the worst. He gave me a $100 gift card to Borders for Christmas. This is good, because I keep compulsively adding books to my list of books to buy. I just hunted down Salon’s year-end article on the best books of 2005, and added 4 books to the list. Then I went back to the list of the best books of 2004 and added 3 more. I was pleased to note that I already own 4 of the books from the whole list, and I have even read one and about a fourth of another. Then, I started looking at random book recommendations on the site, and added another one. Finally, I broke away, since I have 44 books on my list of books that I already own, plus 24 on the list of books to buy! I don’t need to be out hunting more books!

While I was logging in here to copy in the above paragraph (written over my lunch break at work), I added 4 more books to the list, though. There is no hope for me…

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Kids really get in the way of getting a lot of reading done.

After I made my list of books that I have already, I decided to start with my Martha Grimes murder mysteries. They are fast reads, and I figured I could knock my list down a bit fairly quickly. And I did get two books read in 2 days. Not bad, huh? Unfortunately (for my book reading, not in any other way), my kids came back from their dad’s on the third day. They had been gone for 4 days, and I was so glad to see them. I even had the rest of the week off, from Tuesday to Friday, not to mention the weekend, to spend extra time with them. So, I did. We had lots of fun, visiting Max’s daycare that is closing so that he could say goodbye to his teachers one last time, finishing our Christmas shopping, visiting Santa (where we got a great picture, btw—I will have to figure out how to post it here), visiting friends and family, and just generally hanging out together. Did I mention shopping? You know that has to include a trip to the bookstore, so now, after a little over a week and with 2 books completed, my list has gone from 42 books-to-be-read to 43.

The kids went back to their dad’s on Sunday, but I have still not finished the book that I started before they came back. Part of the reason for that is that I actually started another book during the time they were here. We were at home, and I had left my mystery in the car, which was all the way down in the garage, three flights of stairs away, so I started one that I had in the apartment. Then, there were all the family activities that occur around Christmas to take up my time. And after I finished with those, I went to Max’s new daycare and painted, to help them get ready for the licensing walkthrough that will be taking place tomorrow. And somewhere in all of that, I watched 4 episodes of Babylon 5 on dvd. That was a lot of fun, but I really don’t have time for two recreational activities!

So, maybe I am not being fair to the kids. Even after they went to their dad’s again, I didn’t manage to finish another book (although I did commit to the mystery and get much further in it). And, hey, I read Two Little Trains, by Margaret Wise Brown, all the way through. Plus, Millie Moo and Tickle the Duck. See, the kids are good for me completing books, not bad!

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So, today I finished Sara Nelson’s So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading, in which the author sets out to read a book a week and talk about the experience (hey, doesn’t that sound like a great idea?–too bad I am not getting paid for it like she did). As soon as I finished the book, I headed for the bookstore, despite the fact that I already had at least 30 books at home that I haven’t read yet. There are so many books to read, I can always buy more. I wanted to buy some of the books that she talked about in her book, but when I got to the store, I remembered that I was missing 3 books in the Martha Grimes series, and I saw some other books that I have been meaning to buy for a while, so I actually only ended up with one book that she had referred to: She’s Not There about a woman’s experience going through a sex change operation and how she copes with the world after the process is complete.

As I was standing in the bookstore, adding up how much money I was spending, and debating which books to put back for later, it occurred to me that I need to keep a running list of the books that I have available to read, and the books that I would like to get. So, now my spreadsheets of books I have completed has become a full-fledged workbook, with sheets for Books I Want to Read (That I Already Have) and Books I Want to Read (That I Need to Buy). I briefly considered adding a list of Books That I Have That it is Unlikely I Will Ever Read, but I decided that may be going a bit overboard. And anyway, why would I want to keep track of that?

This listing is a good idea for making sure I don’t forget books that I really want to read, but it is a bit daunting. As of right now, I have 42 (!) books that I already own that I haven’t read yet, and 15+ books that I would like to get (my last entry is for any book by David Sedaris, and I know there is more than 1, but not exactly how many…).Even if I read a book a week, that would take me over a year. Fortunately, I actually average at least 2 per week, but it is still a lot of books. Especially since I don’t actually read that much EVERY week.

The big struggle for me is going to be stopping myself from buying any more books until I get through some of the books that I already have. Why am I spending money on books when I have over 40 here already? The bookstore isn’t going anywhere. It’s book gluttony. Part of it, I know, is a reaction against the time when I didn’t have money to go buy books whenever I wanted to. It wasn’t that long ago that I actually got to the point sometimes when I didn’t have anything to read! It was a terrible feeling, although even then, I had plenty of books I could have re-read. But I am far beyond ensuring that I have something to read when I am done with the current book. That will be the good thing about this list, I think–I can look at this very long list of books that I already own when I am tempted to go buy more books.

Man, I crack myself up. Sure, that will work.

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It has been over a year since I posted anything here, but the last few days I have been thinking about it a lot, so I thought I would come back and try it again. This seems like as good a place as any to talk about my latest obsession–I am keeping track of books that I read in an Excel spreadsheet, and it is really very interesting. The problem is, it will be a lot more interesting in a year or so, when there is a lot more data on the spreadsheet.

I have set up filters, so that I can sort for different authors, or see which books I read in a certain time period, or see how many books of different genres I have read, but there are only 7 books on it so far, so that isn’t terribly interesting yet. I could put books that I have read in the past on there, but that has problems, too. For one thing, I am also tracking how long it takes me to read the books, and I have no idea how long it took me to read these books in the past. And, adding a book as I start it, then adding the date when I finish it isn’t a big deal, but adding all the books on my bookshelves would be extremely tedious. Also, there is no way I could list all the books I have ever read from memory!

I love looking at the spreadsheet, though. So far, I have read 4 books in an average of 2.75 days, with an average of 351.83 pages. The first two books on the list don’t have start dates, because I didn’t start the sheet until I was already reading them, and I couldn’t remember for sure when I had actually started them. There are pretty purple and blue headers to the table, and I have spent a ridiculous amount of time deciding what kind of calculations I want to set up to automatically occur when I put a new book on the list. They aren’t terribly complex calculations, but I spent far too much time thinking about how to improve this silly spreadsheet.

I got the idea to do this from a friend at work, who started his own spreadsheet years ago. He and his wife were trying to inpsire his stepson to read more. It didn’t work, but they kept the spreadsheets up anyway. He was telling me that he didn’t read nearly as many books as he thought he did before he started keeping track. As an example, one year it was only 35 books. I said, I know I read more than that. He said he would have thought the same. I didn’t want to argue with him, but I know that I read more than that. So, I decided to start my own list. I started it at the end of November (the first book was completed on 11/28), and now I can’t wait until I have lots of books on there to look at.