I know, I know. How can I even call myself a lover of books if I hate the classics? Frankly, it’s because some of them suck. It’s like Thanksgiving turkey. Everyone thinks they like Thanksgiving turkey, but I’m pretty convinced that no one actually does. It’s (usually) dry and (mostly) flavorless (I’m sure yours is the exception, totally). Do you like everything that comes along with Thanksgiving turkey? Yes! But the turkey is like the sad extra on the set who keeps flubbing his lines. And that’s how I feel about most classic literature.
It’s just too wordy. It never gets to the damn point. If it even had a damn point in the first place.
But in 2015, I decided that it was time to see if perhaps age had added any wisdom regarding those classics that plagued my high school years. I was able to write book reports and pass tests without really reading the books, so if I couldn’t make it past “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” I just faked it. But now I’m all grown up and sometimes I feel like I’m a little left out of the cultural conversation, you know? So a coworker and I came up with the idea that we would read all the books we should have read. Then we came up with a total of 217 books and we both almost threw up because that’s a lot of fucking books (hi, I thoroughly enjoy cursing, so you’ll see plenty of it in these posts).
We decided that 100 books was the magic number, so we each picked 50 (and then each picked a few more to cover the inevitable overlap) and made our list. We decided that reading them in alphabetical order by title was the only way to avoid getting stuck in a black hole of Charles Dickens for 10 years, and we got started. Only…we didn’t. Because we were looking at the list of “A” books (Alice in Wonderland, All the President’s Men, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Animal Farm, Anne of Green Gables, Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret?, The Autobiography of Malcom X) and we were getting intimidated. We were dreading it. We had already read 1984, and it was time to go all in on Alice in Wonderland and neither of us wanted to do it. We were making zero progress.
And that’s when it hit us: we couldn’t know what book was coming next. Or next and then next and then next for 100 books. It was too much pressure. But we also couldn’t just allow ourselves to choose what we wanted to read next because then we would read everything we wanted to read first and get stuck in the aforementioned Charles Dickens hole for 10 years. Or worse! The John Steinbeck cavern. Or the F. Scott Fitzgerald tundra.
New plan. Each title would get a number and then we would use a random number generator to choose the next book when we were ready for it. Brilliant, right? We managed to read 20 books that way in 2015. Progress!
I was already in a book club I accidentally started in 2014 where we read books that are about to be made into movies (usually from a Buzzfeed list they post sometime in January – you can find this year’s list here). Then I was adding in the books from the dreaded “Books We Should Have Read” list. So in 2016, I set a personal goal to read 52 books in a year. FIFTY-TWO BOOKS IN A YEAR! That’s a book a week, for those who have been living off the grid for a while. Which, given my hectic schedule, seemed really incredibly definitely not doable. Where in hell would I find the time to read a book everysingleweekoftheyear?! THAT IS CRAZY.
(It turns out the answer is, in part, listen to all the audio books while you drive to and from work and sit in endless traffic everyday.)
And that’s how this blog was born. I added to my existing book “clubs” by starting the Read Harder Challenge (which is fanfuckingtastic, you should check it out). It’s my little book club all by myself with this crazy (for me) reading goal and I figured hey! Why not write about it? Plus, I miss writing. I used to have a blog, but I haven’t really written at all for myself in over five years (for reasons, okay?). I was paralyzed trying to figure out how to even start a blog again. What should I write about?! Who would want to read it?! Do I even want people to read it?! Should I blog as me myveryself or should I be “anonymous” and try not to tell anyone I know (this one straight up held me hostage for months)?! What do people want to read about?! How could I possibly think I could write something that anyone would care to read?! AHHADHIASDUHDSHLDGFGISADGFDGFG. Ad nauseum. Ad infinitum. Ad foreverium.
(Cue me, watching 10 seasons of Top Chef instead of writing even one word. Cue me, designing 137 logos for blogs that have zero posts. Cue me, thinking everyday, BUT DO I WANT TO TELL PEOPLE ABOUT MY BLOG IF I HAVE A BLOG?)
And then finally, I just decided to do it (last Saturday, at a used bookstore, when I encountered a book by Nick Hornby in which he writes about reading books in the bathtub and amidst my pain over not having a bathtub suitable for a soak there was a niggling thought that maybe I, too, could write about reading books). I mean, here I am doing what, for me, is a crazy not doable thing. Why not just write about it? And who the eff cares if anyone reads it (hint: I definitely will care about this, but for today I’m going to be all casual and pretend that this isn’t important at all)? A blog doesn’t have to be a career. It doesn’t have to make me a living. It can just be for me.
Plus, under my “I’ve always wanted to be a writer” nose, my partner has become a writer. And I don’t honestly know what the fuck to think about that. He’s amazing! He just did it. I mean, yes, he hemmed and hawed for months and then wrote for months without telling anyone and then treaded water (which, actually, he can’t do in real life, so this is particularly impressive) in the pool of self-doubt and worthlessness and NOW EVERYONE WE KNOW READS HIS BLOG AND THINKS HE IS AWESOME. Because he is, of course. But like, hey. If he can do it, surely I can do it. Right?
Let’s hope. Sit down and buckle up (and prepare for a lot of parenthetical asides). Here we go!
(PS: In the title up there, I was talking about how there were no more excuses but I was being super clever about it because And Then There Were None is actually the title of one of my favorite Agatha Christie novels and one of the only books I actually read in high school, which actually lead to me reading ALL of the Agatha Christie novels even though my English teacher was like, “No, we’re moving on, I don’t care if you just read Murder on the Orient Express, we’re reading Great Expectations,” but I didn’t move on I just kept reading Agatha Christie and…Cliff’s Notes. Lots and lots of Cliff’s Notes.)