SuperBookworms

I feel a certain amount of pride in the number of books I read and take a certain pleasure in thinking of myself as a bookworm, but I’m a total slacker when I compare myself to some people I found on the net while searching for Best Books of 2007. Take a look at Jason Lunberg’s 2007 books read blog entry. He lists 90 books. I have a mere 39 on my log for 2007, down from 53 in 2006. My lame excuse, I got bogged down trying to listen to the Bible and while concurrently studying it at the same time, and I still haven’t finished the Old Testament or any of the supplemental books I bought to help explain it.

This got me to thinking. How many books can a person read in a year? I next found “Anglers Rest” with a partial list that ends at 109. After that I found lots of people listing 40-60 books, like “So Many Books” or “Orpheus Sings the Electric” that I tend to think that around a book a week is the range of the serious bookworm. Looking at the titles, these bookworms also seem to be very diverse readers, reading a mixture of classics, genres, literary and non-fiction, memoirs and biographies. It certainly would be fun to get a party of these people together and get them arguing over best books and writers.

Then I found Eva’s “A Striped Armchair” with 200 titles listed – but only through October 25th and I am in awe! Now she is a SuperBookworm! I’d call anyone reading more than 100 books a year a SuperBookworm. Of course, she is a twenty-one year old nanny taking time offΒ after college before getting real, so that explains some things. When I took “some time off from college” or as my family refers to that time as “Jim’s unpaid vacation as a worthless bum,” I read 478 books in eighteen months. To be honest, I read to avoid growing up and to keep my mind off the question about what to do with my life. I have to wonder if Eva isn’t doing that too.

I kept going through my Google returns but I didn’t find anyone to top Eva. I then found a site that focuses on doing what I was doing with Google. Over at ~Listology~ they take this idea seriously. They generate lists of lists that take the idea to the extreme.

Still, reading over 200 books in one year boggles my mind. Is Eva the top bookworm of the year? I don’t know. If I was a SuperProgrammer, I’d write a program to crawl the net, gather up all the “Books Read 2007” lists from my Google search and compile a database and cross tabulate it to see what were the most read books and who read the most books. If you assume hardcore Bookworms and SuperBookworms have reached the stage of being jaded over bad books and also assume they would naturally seek out the best books, this system might tell me what the best books are to read.

I doubt I’ll ever be able to call myself a SuperBookworm and read one hundred books in a year again. When I was a kid in junior high and high school there were long periods where I could read a book a day, but those were crappy science fiction novels, and SF novels back then were often less than 200 pages long. I don’t want to read worthless crap books any more, and the types of books I like to read now take about a week to finish. I’ll be content with this pace if I read the best of best books and I’ll die knowing I did a good bookwormly job.

The motto I would like to live up to is: Why read any book when you can read a great book!” That’s not an easy motto to follow if you have an undisciplined mind that likes to pursue odd ends and thoughts. I could, but it would probably be silly knowing my true self, to make a resolution for 2008 to only read great books.

I want to read the best books, but I don’t want to stick to just the same old famous classics. That’s why I like to read these Books Read 2007 lists. However, I wish there were other ways to validate good reading ideas.

There are other methods to find lists of great books, such as the one at New York Magazine, “The Best Novels You’ve Never Read,” where they had sixty-one critics recommending their favorite underrated books from the last ten years and producing a year’s worth of reading for the average bookworm. I had read only one of these titles, The Accidental by Ali Smith, and shamefully, I had not even heard of most of the others. New York Magazine even tries to recommend authors who will be taught in school in 50 years in their article, “The Future Canon.” Again, I’m stymied by my lack of knowledge.

Not only am I not a SuperBookworm, but I’m just a normal bookworm with less than good taste. I suppose I need to go get Peter Boxall’s 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die and get busy. I’m not a total illiterate, because a quick glance showed I read 4 of the first 20 on this list of his titles at listology. Assuming I followed this list, it would take me twenty years to finish it, and that doesn’t count for any fantastic books written after the list was written, or cover all the Harvard Classics type books that aren’t on this list.

I should join the others and list my Books Read 2007, but glancing down my log I gladly notice a reasonable number of good books, and some even interesting books, but I also embarrassingly note I read a lot of crap, so I think I’ll curl my tail between my legs and walk away cowered by the SuperBookworms.

JWH

10 thoughts on “SuperBookworms”

  1. 200 books a year is quite a lot and even if I read full-time I don’t think I could do it. The most I’ve ever read in a year since I’ve been keeping track is 64. I like your idea of quality over quantity. I read crap too but find it a nice balance to the serious. I think you are a worthy bookworm πŸ™‚

  2. Reading has never been a competitive sport, so it doesn’t really matter how many books a person reads a year. And how many books a person can read depends on what they have going on in their lives.

    I am always amazed at how people can juggle work, family (esp. those with children) and other stuff — and still read. But they do.

    Although, I’m amazed anyone still reads these days. But we do.

    There are people who go through every year of their lives reading less than 5 books. So, you are definitely way cooler than them.

    I think it’s okay to read beyond the “classics” — and occasionally read what might be deemed “crap.” Some of the books I read may be considered crap by lit-snobs too: I read comics and manga, I read horror, fantasy, science fiction and other genre fiction. If anyone mock me, I will just raise my deadly eyebrow at them.

    Variety is the spice of life — and I alway believe someone who only reads the classics is limiting themselves as much as someone who only reads romance novels.

    So, if you want to, just do your list of 2007 Reads. Do it for yourself, just to give yourself an idea of your readings and whether you want to set any plans for the future. Since I started blogging I have become more conscious of my choices. (Eg: If I think I don’t read enough poetry this year, I try to pick up more poetry the following year.)

    Just read. Read widely, deeply — and most importantly, have fun. You have a great year reading for 2008, okay?

    On a side note: Stefanie is definitely a bigger bookworm than me. Odd, since I don’t think Aries are known for their bookwormish qualities.

  3. I couple of years ago I completed 90 books. Mostly I listen to unabridged audiobooks, but I also “read” about 30 books that year. The last year I stopped keeping a reading journal, but my New Year’s resolution is to start keeping track again. I don’t think I’ll get to 90 books again, but I also read a lot of short fiction from old magazines and such. Since I started publishing vintage fiction in audiobook form, I’m alway on the look out for great stories. My new journal is going to include all the books and short stories I read. Of course, that doesn’t take into account all the reading I do online.

    Jim, you talk about reading only great books. I think, even if this were a doable thing, I’d still want to read some crap. This sounds weird, but if you define crap as something that is escapist and enjoyable, I want it in my mix of reading. It’s nice to let that analytic part of your mind relax and enjoy a work that is only meant to be enjoyed.

  4. I guess it’s all in how you define crap. I’m all for quality escapism like Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Gray or Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs. I loved the Harry Potter books. What I’m trying to avoid are those books that lack uniqueness.

    It’s very easy as a genre reader, like a science fiction fan, or mystery fan, to consume books. You read books because of an author or series or even a cover and it fills the time. I used to do that. Then I quit reading for awhile because I became jaded. Now I’m like a heroin addict that only gets off on the good stuff – I’ve developed a tolerance for the average.

    Now that doesn’t mean I’m always reading James Joyce. This past year I tried Sherlock Holmes stories for the first time. They were new and different to me. I don’t know if I’ll read all of them, but I’ll read more in the future.

    I’m even up for something truly odd – like if I found the right romance book I’d give them a try. I just need the right introduction. But if I was going to read a romance I’d like to read one rated a 10 rather than one rated a 4.

    I also like to find new voices, like Special Topics in Calamity Physics and King Dork. I don’t know if these books are good or not, but they seemed exceptional to me. However, I wouldn’t want to waste my time reading a high school novel that didn’t stand out.

    I have a hankering for a great science fiction novel and have been trying to find one for several years now, but none really stand out. Maybe I’ve read too many, and it’s probably why I keep going back to reread old favorites. What really satisfied me this year for science fiction was the StoryPod stories from James Patrick Kelly on Audible.com and some of the stories on CD from the Rich Horton collection.

  5. Time Traveler:

    For SF before 1950 there are two collections I think are great: Before the Golden Age edited by Isaac Asimov, featuring stories from the 1930s, and Adventures in Time and Space edited by Raymond J. Healy and J. Francis McComas, covering stories mainly from the 1940s.

    But do you not consider modern stories too for audio production? If you are a member of Audible.com you can try the year of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction Audible.com produced back in 2002, I believe. I listen to these stories over and over again. I don’t think writers get that much money when a story is reprinted in an anthology, so I’d think your fee to produce the audio edition wouldn’t be any higher.

    If you only publish stories from the past you’ll only get the SF nostalgia crowd. I think if audio short stories are going to take off you’ll need to market modern stories with issues that young people can relate to and get inspired by.

    I would like the think that the best stories published in F&SF and Asimov’s are as exciting as any television show today or any computer game, at least in terms of far out ideas. Unfortunately, reading short stories doesn’t appeal to the crowd that love Heroes and Lost and Halo. But I wonder if a good production of a short story played on their iPod wouldn’t get their attention.

    Jim

  6. Well, the 200 books is through a few days ago, not through October. I think the October 25th date is when I started the page, since I switched from blogger to wordpress around that time.

    I’m sure there are people who’ve read more than me this year…perhaps SuperFastReader? It’s her job. πŸ™‚

    And I still work a full week, even if I am a nanny, lol. Not to mention, half of this year was spent as a full-time college senior. πŸ˜‰ But I’ll stop, because I know you didn’t mean anything offensively!

    I will address this sentence though:
    “To be honest, I read to avoid growing up and to keep my mind off the question about what to do with my life. I have to wonder if Eva isn’t doing that too.”

    The reason I’m working as a nanny is that I was going through the process to become a Peace Corps volunteer. Last month, I found out I wouldn’t receive a medical clearance. So, now I’m applying to grad school in order to pursue a degree in nonproliferation studies. Eventually, I’d like to either work to lower the amount of WMDs in the world or be a foreign service officer in the US State Department. So that’s what I want to do with my life!

    I think a main part of why I’m reading so much more than last year (about double) is blogging. Between challenges and tons of great books discussed on all the blogs, I always have a book to pick up now. Also, my college library was severely deficient in the fiction section, and I didn’t have money to buy books. lol

    Well, this is already a super-long comment, so I’ll wrap it up for now. (Oh-and I’m an Aries as well!) And if you’re looking for recommendations on great books to read next year, check out my “Lists of 2007” page!

  7. Eva, do you not need sleep? Yes, you read 200+ books and wrote long intelligent comments about them, as well as worked and went to school. I’m amazed. I feel like such a slug. And your ambitions measure up to your reading and writing activity. The world is bound to have fewer weapons when you get on the job. I’ll go look at your Lists of 2007 page.

    By the way, I’m new to blogging. If I make replies here, do they get back to the people who read them?

    Jim

  8. Hi Jim! Your replies only get to people if they’ve either had a comment feed selected, or they come back. But I got your e-mail! πŸ™‚ If you keep reading book blogs, you’ll end up with an overflowing TBR list of books that sound great. Also, there’s Dirda’s collections of book reviews if you want more ideas: Bound to Please and Classics for Pleasure are pure reviews, while his other stuff is more memoir/ode to book style. Personally, I subscribe to the theory that any ‘genre’ of book can be really well-written, and I also remind myself that reading is just a hobby, so it should be about fun as well as erudition. πŸ™‚ Late last year, I ‘rediscovered’ YA lit, for example, and I read some outstanding books in that genre, ones that I wouldn’t give up for anything. All the same, the classics do tend to be dependable. πŸ˜€

  9. I generally average around 40-50 novels a year, sometimes a bit more. I go through periods where I cannot get enough reading done and then times when I spend more time watching things, playing computer games, doing things outdoors, etc. I too think that reading isn’t a competetive sport, but it does amaze me that some people read so many books. I saw a few end of the year lists this year that had upwords of 200 books on them. That is commitment! πŸ™‚

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