Why Polygamous Reading is Better Than Reading One Book at a Time

Before anything else, let’s clear this up right off the bat: polygamous reading means reading more than one book at a time, monogamous reading the strictly one-at-a-time traditional style. When I say better, I am mostly thinking of one thing: quantity. So what I am saying with this rather opinionated title is that polygamous reading lends itself to reading more books in general. This is not to say that every reader in this category of style is necessarily reading more than people who read one book at a time and then move on to the next and the next. It is rather to say that the style itself is more applicable to reading in greater quantities. Here is why.

When you pick up a book, a number of things can happen. You can for instance A) get immediately into the flow of the thing, feel like you’ve known the characters for years, settle nicely as if in your own home, or B) feel like you are thrown into a world and don’t understand what is going on, feel confused and frustrated and clueless. This is going to be hard work! Of course, these two are just examples of the many possible ways we can feel about a book upon those first few pages, but all the same starting a new book is always a bit of a fitting challenge and it takes a bit of wiggling into place to be all on board. Some books takes more than a little wiggling, a lot of wiggling or you just don’t really get comfortable at all. An example of this for me is one of the nonfiction titles I am reading at the moment, “The Matter of the Heart” (by Thomas Morris), that is having me constantly googling names of famous heart surgeons I don’t know, what the heart looks like, all the parts that make up its construction, how it moves, where it is connected to other parts of the body, what a pacemaker looks like, etc. It’s not a flow-type kind of reading experience, but that doesn’t necessarily make it a bad one.

I’ve come to think that one of the problems with only reading one at a time is when you come up with that sort of book, that doesn’t let you settle in for the first fifty pages or maybe ever through its entire page length. What do you do when the one book you’re reading ends up being that kind of slogging, interesting and enriching but tough work moving uphill kind of a deal? Well, most likely you read slower. Which obviously means, you read less. For a polygamous reader facing this kind of a challenge, you have the option of picking up another book alongside the slog. Something completely different, something fun and thrilling and fast paced maybe. In which case you could decide in what hours of the day you have the power to read the challenge, and when you’d rather dive in headlong to a story and lose yourself in another world. Reading more books than one at the same time allows you to read books for all moods, all situations whether it be short bursts of time in queues or on public transport, or settling down in a sofa with a hot beverage of choice and lots of uninterrupted reading time.

You can have book for each appropriate aspect of your life. Whatever your schedule and busy levels, you might end up reading more if you can adapt what kind of books you read depending on the situation, your concentration levels, your time frame, even adapting formats for convenience like paperbacks for traveling and audio-books for house chores. While the schedule aspect is important to many people, I find the concentration bit even more so. I have often found, for example, that I need something easy to digest right after studying. Later in the day when some hours have passed, I might be able to focus on more demanding reading again. All this is to say that were you to read just one book – it’s likely that one book would only be suitable/fitting in certain situations and levels of concentration, whereas reading multiple books more easily fits into your life as it is, and fills up more of those breaks with reading.

Another point that I want to make is the reason I wanted to write this today. What if you don’t let a sloggish book slow you down? What if you instead ramp up the pace? Just to get it over with, or to push through the slog. I have done this many times, and I can tell you more often than not it was not a good idea. Why? Well, first off it is much less enjoyable. You’re pushing yourself after all, it becomes more of a chore than enjoyment – which is really what reading is for most of us. It is easy to loose one’s concentration in forcing-situations, because your mind is not really in on the game. It requires more energy, is more tiring, and ultimately might not make you read more in the end. Part of the problem is that this kind of reading can lead you to not wanting to read at all. Not this book, nor any other book. It can also make the reading of this one book, that might actually be good and interesting otherwise, seem less rewarding of an experience just because you wanted to read it quicker than your mind was able to follow along. Maybe people don’t do this as much as I have in the past; but I don’t recommend it. There are better ways to enjoy reading, read more, and read deeper than this masochistic route.

The reason I was thinking about reading pace and styles, is because I have been reading monogamously for a few weeks now, for a change. It happened unconsciously, I was finishing up books on my nightstand pile and suddenly I was reading one at a time and it worked for a while, until I came up on the more challenging books on my tbr. Now I’m back to my senses and reading more than one book at a time (four in fact), and it works so much better for me.

There is a way monogamous reading might work well, and that is if you mainly read books that makes you feel comfortable, right off or soon thereafter. That is not to say you’re reading a certain genre, difficulty level, or quality. Rather, depending on what you are used to, what you have the best background to settle into, affects how long it takes you to fit into the world of the book. Maybe you are for instance, an expert in the field of heart surgery. When you read “The Matter of the Heart” as I mentioned above, you might not find it a struggle, challenge, or requiring frantic googling of valves and heart anatomy. Maybe you are an avid sci-fi reader, you might find it a piece of cake to imagine new worlds and technical structures whereas you might struggle through a multiple-narrative form in literary fiction. If you read the same kinds of books, within a certain genre or topic or even the same author, you are most likely finding it easier to “settle in” as I put it earlier. If most of your reading could be described as such, monogamous reading might be more suitable for you. However, if you happen to be like me – actively searching for challenges in my own reading and my own understanding, knowledge and comfort zone, constantly – you might want to consider reading multiple books at a time.

That all said, I know of readers who read one book at a time and are constantly trying out new things in their reading and seem to have no problem in adjusting themselves to all kinds of books and reading experiences. I also know of polygamous readers (myself included, at times) that end up reading less because of not finishing up all of the juggling books. That is what I meant by the style of the polygamous reader lending itself to reading more but it doesn’t necessarily equate to reading more. It’s all up to the individual reader, how the two different styles are used and adapted – maybe a bit of a mix, depending on time of seasons or even day of the week. What do you think about monogamy vs polygamy in reading? Any experiences similar to my own? I would love to hear about it.

Have a wonderful Friday!



One person’s trash, is another person’s gold

The title of this post came to me as I was thinking about the day’s outing, to one of my local secondhand shops. I love second hand shopping – no other type of shopping gets me going quite as much, even book shopping (new books, that is). The main reason for this preference is the element of hunting in thrifting; it’s all about finding hidden treasures in a sea of otherwise useless stuff, whether they be clothes, books, furniture, or porcelain. The object itself is irrelevant, the value of the object is irrelevant (unless you’re part of the antique’s road show). What is important is what you value, the ‘market’ value of a thing is no longer as valid in a second hand shop because the shop’s staff usually don’t care or maybe they don’t know – so the price is not a reflection of the original price. You’re then free to make your own judgement, based on your own tastes and demands. I mean, long story short thrifting is a treasure hunt and there’s loads of things every person in the shop will think of as trash – but you might think of as a gem, a little speck of gold.

I am not much of a shopping person because the whole experience stresses me out; all of the people, the music, the people talking on the phone, the weight of a bag which straps are sliding off the shoulder, sweating in a changing room, endless lines for the cash register, all the while not finding what you’re looking for but always finding stuff you don’t need. I guess second hand shops aren’t necessarily different, it depends on where you’re at but generally speaking people don’t seem as much in a hurry there, there’s no insipid music stimulating spontaneous purchases, and I guess even if everyone is noisy and in the way and the lines are awful – it’s worth it because you just saved money. And possibly supporting charities. And at the same time you’re recycling. Win, win, win.

Is this just a long love letter to thrifting and second hand shops? Yes, probably. I love finding books that have clearly come from someone’s basement, showcasing 70s editions that have probably never been read before, or books that have been given/received as gifts – also probably never been read. Or what about those books that have annotations in them? Aren’t they the best? Books that smell like they’re a decade old, because they are. Books that have broken-in spines. Books that have yellowed pages. Books that have been through war times. Books that have come from other countries, other continents, to this small town in Sweden. It’s magic, in my mind. The idea of someone’s trash being someone’s gold is the idea that for some; the books I bought today are probably trash or at the very least useless things, never been read, never been loved, gifted and forgotten, hidden and aged. For some, a book with a broken spine is a book that has only one destination left to go and it’s not in a reader’s library. For some, writing in books is absolutely a no-no, dog-eared pages induce (internal) screaming. But nonetheless, to me these things are part of the charm.

I love old books. I love new books. I love to read a book for its first time, I love to read a book for its tenth or hundredth time (if it has succeeded in staying in tact for that many readings!). All of the various states and shapes books come in, and the magical ways they find their way to me; is just another reason why I am so happy to be a reader.

I hope you’re having a wonderful day!


Buying vs. Collecting Books

Over the last couple of years I’ve kept tabs on all my book acquiring in a personal spreadsheet, initially only logging title of the book, source I got the book from, and which condition I got the book in (the reasoning behind the last being that I wanted to buy more of my books secondhand, and also to separate secondhand from vintage books). Over the years I’ve added more and more categories to track my book purchasing as well as the books I’ve been gifted. But what I wanted to talk about today wasn’t just the acquiring of books, and in particular the books you get for yourself (whether they be free or bought with cash). One thing that has become increasingly clear to me over the last few years is that I am or strive to be a book collector.

With this slightly fancier way of saying purchaser-of-books, I suppose what I really mean is someone who cares not just for the story within the pages – and buys the book to get access to the story – but the book as a physical object. I care about the selection of books I buy, and keep. I want my library not to be just a whole mess of a thing with anything and everything stuck in there; I want my collection of books and really my personal library to show a vision, a cohesive spirit, a purposefulness that shows one personality coming together through individual book spines.

Because of this, lately I have been thinking through all of my additions to my shelves more thoroughly; do they fit here? Can they possibly have a permanent home on my limited shelfspace? Of course, I don’t expect the books I think are worthy of display now will always be the same books, just like I expect some things about my taste, lifestyle, and reading life will change as I change through the years. That’s good, a library should be organic and have a natural flow in and out. But there’s a difference between culling and adding with a purpose and selectiveness, to grabbing every free (or cheap) book that comes my way and keeping every single book I’ve read (even the ones I’ve felt nothing about or hated). For some people, this is the way to go. For me, it’s not.

As I’ve started thinking in the way of a book collector, I have started to look for more specific books and spending the extra money to get those to me – instead of say, buying four easily discarded paperbacks. I bought two A. A. Milne books both in vintage editions (one dated to the 1920s, the other I think from the 1930s) because he has become a favorite author but his books are mostly not in print anymore. I just recently bought a nonfiction tome about Christmas – it’s a lifelong fascination and love of mine, and I am determined to start building a collection of Christmas (history) themed books. All year I’ve been slowly but steadily collecting natural history books, which has become a new-found passion. It’s these things, the odd little interests and what makes me tick, that I have started to allow guide my collecting habits.

That’s not to say all reading or collecting should necessarily be restricted or and planned. I enjoy the spontaneous and serendipitous browsing of books, discovering hidden gems, picking up something I have never heard of and taking a chance on something. I still do this in the way of collecting, but even more so in my visits to the library. Which is sort of the next big part of the change in my acquiring of books; I get more books from the library, I often request books for the library to get too which means even a new release isn’t necessarily off limits. It’s been a freeing experience of getting more of the wild-cards from the library, and focusing my money more on the books I want to physically own and think will be part of a long-term collection.

I still like a messy, slightly asymmetrical, varied sort of personal library. I don’t organize much in my shelves, I don’t buy books in the same line or brand just for the sake of having completely sleek shelves – I don’t even like the idea of having the same height on all my spines, I like them wonky. I like that some of my books have yellowed pages, annotations, and even at times little hidden items like receipts or tickets in them. I like that other books stand with spines not-yet-cracked, white pages, the smell of print or paper fabrics not having been hidden behind layers of dust yet. In some ways, I think it is this mismatch of things; genres, authors, topics, time periods, conditions, size, etc. – that best reflects the many varied sides of me as a reader and as a person.

Do you buy books thinking about its place in your personal library? Do you collect books at all or do you prefer to have a more casual relationship with the books you encounter? I’d love to hear all about it. As you can tell, it’s something I’ve spent some time thinking about.

I hope you have a wonderful day,


#Victober Round 1

It’s the start of October. The air has turned crisper, leaves are changing in color or else dropping down on the muddy ground, and the days are getting increasingly shorter. What says October and autumn more than moors and storms? Yes, that’s right – it’s time to reach for those Victorian stories of large mansions, courtship, rapid societal changes, parties and life on the moors. Hosted by four ladies on Booktube (Ange, Kate, Katie, and Lucy), October is #Victober time. Victober is a month long reading challenge in which you read Victorian literature during the month of October. Truthfully, Victorian literature isn’t something I normally read much of, so I thought this was the perfect opportunity to do so.

I made a whole TBR (to-be-read) video talking about the four books I wanted to read for the challenge, two of them actual Victorian books and two contemporary works of nonfiction about the Victorian period. But today I wanted to talk about two of them specifically, which I am currently reading.

Anne_Brontë_by_Patrick_Branwell_Brontë_restoredFirst up in my Victorian fiction is Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë, published in 1846. In many ways Anne seems to have been the forgotten sister – what with Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights gaining a popularity that does not seem to be comparable to neither Agnes Grey nor her other novel, The tenant of Wildfell Hall. Although she seems to have been slightly overlooked because of her sisters, Anne Brotnë of course was an accomplished writer in her own right – after all, she is still being read and studied more than 150 years later. So what is Agnes Grey all about?

Agnes Grey follows the slightly naive and pure of heart Agnes, who after their family faces some economical problems decides to start working as a governess to help support her family financially as well as gain some form of independence. It was not a good idea. Although it’s easy enough to understand her motives for getting out of her family house to try her own wings, leave the nest, see what she can do and all that – it doesn’t quite go the way she had anticipated. The first family she workAgnes_Greys for have horrendous children, one worse than the other. Their parents are impossible, according to Agnes – demanding her have full control of the children without using force (basically any violence in making them do things) nor is she allowed to really deprive them of anything (as threats, to make them do things against their will). That is really unfair, thinks Agnes. Well, it goes to hell with her first job and the family finally decides she has done no progress with their kids and lets her go. Disappointed with her failure, Agnes decides to try again – to be able to hold her head up, and to save her pride. She finally gets a new position, which in truth isn’t that different from the first except the children are older, they end up being fewer (the sons of the house are sent off to school soon after her addition there), and while no one in this house is exactly pleasant to her or understanding in any meaningful way, they are also not as hostile as the previous family were.

That’s about as far as I have gotten into the book, so I can’t say where Agnes finally ends up. One thing that becomes obvious early on as a modern reader is that the discipline of children is seen, through Agnes, to be requiring violence, threat of violence, or threat of deprivation of some sort. The parents themselves use these methods when they have to, mostly it is expressed through our heroine since she is the one given responsibility for the children and the control of them. The idea of discipline and guidance to children through these means is also reflected in the way the characters behave towards animals, only worse. While this way of gaining authority over individuals is less obvious in childcare of the 21st century, you can definitely see remnants of it in the care for dogs and other animals still. Is it just me who sees childcare as a big part of the 19th century illu_217.jpgnovels? A book I read just a few weeks ago, The Scarlet Letter, similarly had interesting constructions of childhood, childcare, and especially in relation to a ‘broken’ home/marriage; the consequences an unstable home situation has on a child. While The Scarlet Letter more indirectly deals with childcare and childhood – in the way the character, Pearl, is written; Agnes Grey clearly focuses on children, childhood, the disciplining and schooling of them as well as the ideal familial situation.Who knows what the remaining 150 pages will bring, but I don’t expect I will feel much fondness for any of the characters under 18 years old. Actually under twenty. Or any of the characters quite possibly, since I’m not sold on either Agnes herself as some pure and well bred Christian girl who only does what’s right, or the parents of the children who can’t be bothered to fix any of the less than charming characteristics in their children but still expect them to excel in society.

29467289The other book I am currently reading is the first of my nonfiction titles about the Victorian era. It’s none other than Therese O’Neill’s Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady’s Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manner. So far it has been most strongly focused on body related issues. Of all kinds truly, everything from toilets (and more!), how to hide your wrinkles or fix your saggy breast, body image, clothing of the body, etc. I suppose one of the common threads through this book is the horrifying things people did to look ‘beautiful’ or passable in the era, or the horrifyingly dirty reality of the Victorian era, and don’t get me started on the lack of understanding and knowledge of some of the common poisons of the time (and their long-term effects) either. Lead on the face, no problem. Cocaine for weight loss, sure. Actually I’m not going to go into details, it’s a bit stomach turning to read but if you’re interested – pick up the book!

This would probably be a much harder to book to read if O’Neill weren’t such a humorous writer. It’s clear she is here to entertain first and foremost, while at the same time being helpful in guiding you through some of the more significant (dirty) sides of the era. Educational and funny, who thought it could be possible? Of course it’s not the only book of its kind, but it’s one of the fewer in my experience that doesn’t lose out on its educational content for the sake of jokes. You’ll never read a Victorian novel the same way again, trust me. It’s already shaping my reading of Agnes Grey. Being almost halfway into Unmentionable I’ll say that while her humorous writing style can sometimes be a touch on the too-much, and I am never not cringing or wincing when I read this book, because of horrendous Victorian practices and habits, it’s also been a delight and enlightening in more ways than I thought I would ever need or want.

That’s all for round 1 of my #Victober reading.

Are you participating in Victober 2017? What are you reading? Do you have some favorite Victorian novels or nonfiction books about the Victorian era? Or do you perhaps have a favorite historical fiction book set in the Victorian period with a modern take? I’d love to hear all about it.

Until next time, Happy Reading!


When the Stars Align • Connections Between Books

A little while ago I made a post talking about some of the books I hoped to get to during the summer months. A few weeks I think has passed since then, and I have noticed something funny in that list. It’s not something I had consciously thought of, making the list, but there are connections between the books I had added on the list. What sort of connections? you might ask. It’s not that the books are in the same genre, written by the same author, published in the same year, nothing that obvious; otherwise it wouldn’t have taken me such a long time to realize it was there at all. Instead there are red threads bounding the books, parallels, a network of ideas and voices.

To go from the abstract to the concrete, let’s take the Tove Jansson biography (Tove Jansson: Work and Love by Tuula Karjalainen) to start. The book that connects to her on the summer TBR list is Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark. Now, the fact that Lewis Carroll was one of the influences for Jansson’s work was something I just recently found out, although I can definitely understand it having heard about it. The nonsense approach of Carroll I think would appeal to the creator of Moomins were the finesse of many other children’s stories is completely lacking, one of the charms I think of the stories and their characters. The connection is stronger however in that Tove Jansson actually illustrated two of Carroll’s books; one of them is Alice in Wonderland, which I knew about, but the other is none other than The Hunting of the Snark. I had never actually heard of this particular Carroll book before reading The Emperor of all Maladies by Siddharta Mukherjee so I don’t feel it’s one of his more known works, rather Alice and some of the poetry seems to be what people usually think of when they hear the name Lewis Carroll. But there you go – a completely unintentional connection in the same list.

I don’t normally do TBRs so the example above is unusual in that respect. But the feeling of reading a book that connects to another book you’ve just read, or even speaking of a topic you’ve just learned about, is such an all-stars-align moment and I find it is one of my favorite moments as a reader. It feels like I’m spinning my own spider web, further and further, connecting dots, and it’s somehow an enriching experience. Sometimes it’s not as unintentional or surprising as that, I have come to actively follow such paths or listen to the whispers of hidden trails more recently. Recently I read a book called Not that it matters by Alan Alexander Milne; it’s a collection of articles or as he himself puts it – essays – published between 1910 and 1912. In one of the essays he writes about a book he goes to lengths to recommend to everyone he can, it just happens to be The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. He talks of this book fondly, and with much praise. Again, this is one of the books on my summer TBR list – and while there’s an obvious connection between E. H. Shepard and A. A. Milne I had no idea there was a connection between A. A. Milne and Kenneth Grahame when I put the book on the summer list. E. H. Shepard who is well known for his Winnie the Pooh illustrations also did the illustrations for one of the most beloved editions of The Wind in the Willows. The edition of The Wind in the Willows illustrated by E. H. Shepard apparently came out in 1931 for the first time.

In other words, the essay in which Milne praises the book was published long before the Shepard edition came out. So, what can be concluded from this? Obviously it’s all guesswork here, but in my mind there seems to be a possibility that Milne talked fondly of The Wind in the Willows to his companion of the Pooh stories, Shepard, whom he would’ve worked with closely only a few years before 1931. Maybe Shepard already knew of the book, maybe his interest was peaked through Milne. Either way, there’s a connection there whether it was as clear and causal as my guess or not. One could probably find out about such information through a search on the internet, but isn’t this way more fun? To see sudden connected dots and guess the rest, fill in the blanks with theories.

It’s the little things that makes life fun after all, and when the stars align – whether they do of their own accord or by my intervention – I am just so happy to be a reader.

Book Juggler; or how I became a polygamist reader

The little kitten ‘Marie’, in Disney’s Aristocats, once said:


If the same principal was to be applied to projects, I’m certainly not a lady. I have so many boxes filled with started projects and discarded projects, remnants of ideas and plans unfulfilled, and an even longer list of projects I’ve yet to start – waiting for me to either become realistic about them, or gather enough energy to kick-start them. All this is me saying I’ve definitely had the mentality of easy-to-start harder-to-finish since my younger years but it’s only in more recent years that this has translated into my reading life.

To be honest, it’s more surprising to me that this hasn’t always been the case. I love to learn and I don’t think this is something new to me. I used to make encyclopedias of sorts on topics ranging from Sailor Moon to dogs. I like collecting information, I like learning about new things – and I think that is one of the reasons I’ve always been inclined towards language learning, because learning a new language is a key opening doors otherwise locked and hence the access to ever more information. Books are obviously a great way to gain much knowledge and information, both in the way of nonfiction and the fictional stories. Not only would I say that books teach readers things of all kinds, but for me at least books have been key in creating new interests too. I just recently read a nonfiction book about foxes and one on butterflies and I am now on the look-out for basically any and all nonfiction titles on animals. Reading books (among other things) shape where my interests lie, where I want to gather more knowledge, what gap in my understanding I want to fill.

Reading more books than one at the same time feels like a continuation of the project-starting mentality, but also the wish to learn everything as soon as possible. As soon as possible is of course – now. Clearly there’s a practicality to consider here. Even though I want to read all of the books ever published in the Japanese language, or all of the books on the Rory Gilmore reading challenge list, I can’t read them all today, or this month, or even this year. I’m not a miraculously fast reader, nor do I spend every waking hour reading. All the same I get the urge to start a new book about twice a day, sometimes I hold on until I am finished with one and then add a new one to my currently-reading pile but other times I can’t hold on the self-control. I think what it comes down to is that I spend a lot of my free-time either reading, listening to book related podcasts or watching booktube, and surfing book-related websites like Goodreads. I am daily drowning in book recommendations and book lists of all sorts – from the type that are genre specific to ‘2017 best new releases’ or even upcoming titles. Because I hear about so many books, it’s harder to ignore the other books that are calling to me, other than the one I am actively reading.

I guess this is all just me saying that when I was younger I read a book at a time because I was mostly reading on my own, I didn’t really have any friends to share my love for reading. I would go to the library after school and hang around for a few hours before going home. Sometimes I’d even read the entire book while I was at the library, although they were mostly comics. While I have certainly had people in my life who enjoy reading, and people who have made me a reader in the first place, there weren’t many active readers in my life until I started spending time within the bookish community on the internet. Suddenly I was breathing books, and as a result it became harder to keep my focus on one volume at a time, to keep all the other books at bay.

Aside from the obvious lack of self-control and distraction-focus issues that are linked to the whole polygamist reader gig, there are actually a few real benefits with reading more books than one at a time. The main thing is that I’m a mood reader and if I have a book for every mood I can enjoy the books I’m reading to the fullest – at least theoretically. The other thing is that some books are physically more practical in different situations and different times of the day. So while I tend to read the heavy hardcovers when I’m sitting by a table, I read the paperbacks in bed. I will listen to audiobooks while I do my knitting, and I will sometimes read e-books while I’m eating. The reasons are all because they are most comfortable; hardcovers put on the table, paperbacks to hold in the air, audiobooks when my hands are busy, and e-books are easier to turn pages on.

So in the end, while I do at times reminisce about the time when I could focus solely on one book and give it my undivided attention, I’m also coming to an acceptance of my changing reading habits and reader persona. I think the only thing that could change this facet of my reading life would be if I suddenly increased my reading speed so much that I could finish a book before I got that urge to pick up another one. I wonder if that day will ever come. Are you a strict monogamist reader or do you juggle books like me? And are there any specific requirements for books you read at the same time? For example, I know many people read one nonfiction and one fiction book at the same time.

Until next time, happy reading!

Reflecting on a year passed

Some things have become quite clear as the year has passed, and that is that I don’t do well under any form of rules for my buying habits. This seems to be a general trend for me, although it has been especially obvious with books since that’s what the majority of my money goes to. I never go overboard in the sense that I spend more money that I have, or that I can afford. I never drown in books in my room because I have nowhere to put them either (although, it’s getting there, I need more shelf-space!). But whenever I say to myself that I’ll only buy x amount of books, or only from x places, I set myself up for failure. I suppose I am a born ‘rebel’, determined to break the rules even if I’m the one who made them.

I made a few reading related goals at the end of last year, a few of these were related to the buying of books – all of which I broke within the first few months of the year, then discarded. I had one big goal which was to read about 50% nonfiction, another thing I tweaked although I have definitely read more nonfiction than previous years so I consider it a win. Something I noticed as I was reading nonfiction, and trying to prioritise them, was that nonfiction (non-memoir) books takes me longer to read than fiction. The reason is probably that I read nonfiction the way I do course literature – I read it as if I’m going to get tested on it. By that I mean I read it slowly in order to remember as much of it as possible, to understand it, to add the knowledge to my minds’ library that I can use at a later date if the day ever comes when this knowledge will be useful. And I guess it’s not that strange that my reading is different for the two forms of writing – since I also read them for different reasons.

   I read fiction to be entertained, to experience different world views and different lived experiences, to be inspired by beautiful writing and to be spellbound by stories, words, magic. But I read nonfiction to broaden my horizons, to learn about things I didn’t know about before, to go deeper into areas I’ve only tiptoed on, to get a richer understanding of our world, to see the differences and the similarities between cultures, people, places, species. Sometimes the reasons overlap, some books cross the borders, do multiple things, and challenge my perceptions of these two “genres” of writing. But as a general observation, I have a slower reading pace when I’m reading nonfiction (memoirs not included, since they don’t seem to follow the same pace).

Which is why I was okay with not reading as many nonfiction books as fiction in the entirety of the year, because then I’d have to read a lot less in total, and another one of my goals was to read 70 books this year. I’m closing in on it, with only 4 books left to reach it. Which should be fairly easy to do before the last day of December.

Another goal that I was hoping to make real progress with was to read more translated books. Although this year has been a definite improvement, and the amount of books I’ve read this year from non-English authors have been at least half of the books I’ve read, the countries are not as diverse as I would like them to be. The majority of the translated books I’ve read are from Japan, which isn’t something I necessarily want to change as I want to become closely familiar with Japanese literature as a whole. But I feel I’ve still only dipped my toe into the other countries in Asia, not to talk of the entire continent of Africa and South America. I can only keep trying to find new authors and new titles from around the world to keep widening my net within literature.

One of my smaller goals was to reread two books that weren’t my two most reread books (The Little Prince and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz). This goal I have definitely surpassed. I reread Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in January, followed by The Order of the Phoenix late in the summer. I also reread both Winnie the Pooh books this autumn. All of the rereading I did was a lot of fun and I hope to keep revisiting old favourites in upcoming years.

Lastly I made a goal to annotate more in my books. I wanted to interact more with my books when I’m reading, not to be afraid of writing in them, putting pencil to paper and leave a mark of my having been there. One thing I have noticed though is that underlining is almost as passive as not doing any annotating at all – which is to say, underlining is only useful to remember specific quotes or sections. But it doesn’t show any of your reactions to what is said in the text. You can’t tell whether the underlinings were something that angered you, made you happy, inspired you, or made you want to hit the author in the face. I guess I just realised that underlining isn’t enough for me, because if I reread a book I’ve annotated years from now I won’t know what those underlinings (or sticky note marks) mean or meant to the me back then, then they won’t serve much of a purpose and it’ll only annoy me with cluttering the text.

   I also seem to have become used to underlining so that I almost do it passively now, barely reflecting on the text because I have underlined it I don’t have to remember it. This discussion is a bit simplified, and only my experience on it, but basically I’ve realised I want to keep pushing myself to read more critically and with more awareness, and one way to do this is to annotate. In the form of marginalia. This is what I’m trying to move towards now. I’m not planning to start filling all of the books I read in scribbles, but that I at least have a pencil at hand so that when the thought strikes I’ll be able to jot it down.

So these were a few of the things I learned from my goals for this year, how I did and how some of them were discarded early on while others are still in progress. For next year I’m planning to cut back and simplify a bit more, also because of the goal I had to read what I want, not what I think I should – kind of fits into that. I’ll talk more about the goals for the upcoming year in a future post, later in the month.

If you had any goals for your reading in 2016, I’d love to hear how they went, if you changed them or forgot about them or even actively decided to throw it all out the window. Does reading goals work for you? And do you have any plans for your reading in 2017 already brewing?

Until next time, happy reading!