The “To-Read” Project and Cannibal Reading

Right now, I spend my days hiding in a hotel room on base in New Jersey. I don’t really know anyone yet, I don’t have any money to spend, and thus I have nowhere to go. I am (intentionally) unemployed for the first time in ten years and have very few social obligations. The highlight of my week is grocery shopping at the commissary. The highlight of my day is checking the mail. Heaven help me if anything other than bills arrives. I might turn into a yappy little dog that wets herself when excited. My point is, my life is full of a whole lot of nothing at present. I know that I’m living on borrowed time here. I have a baby coming in October and we’re closing on the house in July. I’ve accepted a busy volunteer position at my church that will take a lot of time as well. But none of those things are happening yet. At first it was nice to have nothing more pressing to do with my day than to decide what time, if at all, I would shower, to decide which of 100 channels I wanted to melt my brain, to consider which delectable frozen food offering from Healthy Choice or Marie Callender’s I would be enjoying that evening, but all that’s over now. I’m just plain bored, and when I get bored, I get in trouble. Hence, the “to-read” project.

GoodReads is a supergreat social networking site for people who read, and I use it to keep track of all the books I hear about that I want to read “someday.” Well, someday is today. Every time I go to the library (just the one on base, for now), I go with a list of ten books from my to read list (which had about 145 titles on it when I started this) and see what they have. The most the library’s ever had from my list of ten has been 3. Typically, they have only one. At present, I’m limiting myself to books that are actually there in the library and avoiding titles available through ILL. As my list narrows and once I finally move in to my house, I may try other book sources.

I have been doing this for 3 or 4 weeks now, and have been reading about 5 books a week. This alarms me. My mother once commented that for me, my books are my friends. (And let me say in passing that my mother is super-insightful about me. She says things like that just in passing, like they’re totally obvious things, but they always strike me as revelations. Of course my books are my friends, and that’s why I never give them away and rarely loan them out. Of course I have a face that communicates my innermost desires and emotions, regardless of my intent. It’s always like she’s speaking these heretofore unacknowledged parts of me into being.) Kathleen Norris said in her wonderful book on acedia that when she’s feeling that way, she tends to consume and devour books rather than read them (I’d give you a direct quote, but my book is packed away in never never land and, of course, the library doesn’t have a copy). Thus, I am in the surprising position of devouring my friends. Why hello, Mrs. Woolf. Thank-you for joining us. Would you rather be an entree or a desert?

To prevent this sort of thing from happening (and yes, I absolutely agree that Woolf can only be a main course. Her writing is too edifying to be anything else.), I plan on recording what I’m searching for and what I’ve read and some teensy response to the text before moving on. I feel like reflecting at least that much on what I’ve read will help me retain whatever message the text had better. If nothing else, such bite-sized reflections/responses might at least clear my palate before the next course. Maybe you will enjoy reading these little tidbits, too, and maybe you will decide to read something that I’ve read or recommend something to me as a result. Now then– down the hatch!

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