Monthly Archives: September 2006

The Big Read

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Are there more public programs to get people reading, or am I just more aware of them?

Here in Missouri they have a program called Read MOre, where they pick a book and try to get as many people in the state to read it as possible. Poking around on the official website, I see that this is the fifth year that they have done this. I have a vague memory of the general idea last year, but I could never have come up with the book they read on my own (Betsy Brown, by Ntozake Shange). This year the book was Messages from My Father, by Calvin Trillin.

I didn’t really figure this thing out even this year until all of the activities were complete, which is too bad. I like Calvin Trillin. I will probably still read the book, but I missed out on the author visit in June, the book discussion groups, the film series, the seminar on reasearching your family stories and other activities. There is a writing activity still active on the website, although, oddly, it says the deadline has been extended, but not what the new deadline is.

I do have another chance coming up on October 7 to make up for missing this one. It’s called The Big Read, and it’s even within walking distance of my house! Unfortunately my children will be at their dad’s house on that day, but I still think it will be worth my time. There are going to be several different authors there, some local to St. Louis, and some not. I printed out a schedule today, and I think I may search out some of the books that will be featured. Sebastion Junger, who wrote A Death in Belmont about his family’s connection to the Boston Strangler, will be there. I think I will have to read that book. They also have an event with three memoir writers, including J. R. Moehringer, who wrote The Tender Bar. I have been thinking about reading that one anyway.

What kind of public reading programs are there in other parts of the country?

Presidential Reading

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I was reading the New York Times online the other day, and Maureen Dowd made a reference to the amount of reading that our president claims to have done so far this year in her column. I searched out the article that she referred to in the American Prospect to find out more. According to this article, the President claims to have read 60 books this year, some of them serious non-fiction books of over 800 pages.

Now, I am a book geek, so I keep track of the books that I read. Actually, I just started at the end of last year, but I have a cool spreadsheet that tells me that I have read 62 books so far this year. Some of them are long (there are seven books over 500 pages, the longest was 897). Some of them were difficult (Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi and Ungrateful Daughters by Maureen Waller, for example). At least one was long and difficult (The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova at 642 pages). So I know that it is possible to read a lot of books in one year, even with some weighty books in there.

But I am not the President of the United States. And I don’t work out for two hours every day. And I wasn’t functionally illiterate just last year.

This is a man who talks about how he has his aides read his daily news summaries to him. Who believes he is suddenly a voracious reader? In order to read 62 books so far this year, I had to work at it. I had to ignore my messy house and make difficult decisions about whether I should go to bed or stay up and read just a bit more. I had to read at every possibly opportunity. This was not difficult for me, because I love to do it. But for someone who doesn’t really like to read, it just isn’t credible.

But my big question about this whole thing is, who is his intended audience with this stunt? He wasn’t pulling the “Aw shucks, I’m just a regular guy, not an elitist” routine for fun. He was clearly playing to a large section of voters. So it seems like suddenly claiming to read 60 book in a year might not go over well with them. And people who really do read a lot just don’t believe him. They know how much time reading takes, and how hard it is to fit in a busy life. I would hope that most people have less busy lives than the president of the United States, although with this president it is hard to tell.

What do you think–what is the point of this claim? Do you believe he has read 60 books so far this year?

And we’re back!

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After my vacation in June, I sat down and wrote a great post for this blog. It was about what I read on vacation, what I took but didn’t read, some books that I read before I left, and the nature of vacations. It was brilliant. It had links. I spent quite a bit of time on it.

Just as I was nearing the end of this masterpiece, the power went out for about 30 seconds. It wasn’t storming, but it was windy, so I guess some wires were temporarily blown out of full connection or something. We barely had enough time to register what was happening before the power came back on. The dvd that the kids were watching resumed right where it had left off. My virtuoso piece of writing, however, was gone. This discouraged me so much that I haven’t been back since, except for the brief post of pictures.

I have kept up my reading and my list, though, so I decided today that it was time to stop being silly and start again. Of course, I am composing this in Word and saving often, but at least I am writing it. It seems appropriate anyway–getting back to work after a summer vacation. My daughter went back to school last week, and now I am getting back into the routine, too.

So, I am sure anyone who has read this blog before (all, what? 5 or 6 of you?) is dying to know where my count for the year stands. I am at 61 books for the year. Not bad for the first 8 months of the year, but my pace has definitely fallen off what it was at the beginning of the year, when I was averaging two per week. I knew I would not maintain that for the whole year, though, and I am not even sure that I would want to, at least from the standpoint of having a life in the real world. On the other hand, there are so many books out there to read that it seems like I should hurry up and get to them all.

A quick look at some of the statistics of my reading:

• Science Fiction is my top genre now, with 20 books, or just under 33%.
• General Fiction, a bit of a catch-all category, is in close second, with 19 books, or just over 31%.
• Non-Fiction as a whole sits at 14 books, or nearly 23%.

Overall, my list is fairly diverse, which is good. I have not updated the Books-To-Be-Read list lately, so the 47 books on there do not reflect all the books I have waiting. I joined the Science Fiction Book Club, so I got a bunch of books in the mail from them, and the only ones that made it on the list were the ones I have finished, and those aren’t the only books I have bought and not documented. My list of Books-To-Buy sits at 39, but I am sure that could use some updating, too.

I am thinking of trying to put my spreadsheet out on the new Google spreadsheet. I have a problem with wanting to update my list both at home and at work, and keeping those in synch is tough. If I had it out on the web, that would help a lot. Plus, I could put a link here, because I am sure this would be just as fascinating to everyone else as it is to me. Kind of like a train wreck.

Anyway, that is where I stand, reading-wise. I have also recently joined the community center so that I can work out more, signed up to volunteer more at my daughter’s school, and gotten tremendously busy at work. More on all that later, though.