20 Books of Summer Update

In an earlier post, I laid out my reading goals for the summer. As we approach the midpoint of the three-month period, it seems appropriate that I record my progress on working through the list.

Before I do that, though, I’ll offer some reflections on the process. I was inspired to set a goal like this for this summer by reading on Mastodon about others doing the same thing. As more people jumped into the discussion to give the list of books they planned to read, a few others jumped in to say that this is a rather strange goal – one is going to read what one is going to read, so why count the books? Wouldn’t it be better, some said, to set a goal that expands one’s reading – say, to read books in genre(s) that one hadn’t read before? Or to read books by authors representing cultural traditions other than one’s own? Sure, I’d say, one should set a goal that makes sense to the person setting a goal.

But the context in which a goal is set makes a big difference. The woman who initiated this challenge (Cathy of 746books.com ) was inspired to set this goal because she was concerned that she owned so many books that she hadn’t yet read. Her goal, as I understand it, was simply to chip away at that 746 number so that she would have fewer unread books. As I said in my earlier post, I’m in much the same place, though I fear that my magic number is rather greater than 746 (but who’s counting?). And I’ve found this goal, vague as it is, helpful in my attempt to lower that number. At one time or another, I was definitely interested in reading every one of the books on my shelves, else I wouldn’t have purchased them. And my interests are such that the collection is somewhat diverse.

One big realization is that it’s nice to have a list in front of me as I work through the summer. And, with one exception, I’ve stuck with that list.

So, here’s the list of books, showing which ones I’ve read thus far:

  • Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities
  • Lester J. Cappon (ed), The Adams-Jefferson Letters
  • Siddhartha Mukherjee, The Song of the Cell
  • Charles Hartshorne, Insights and Oversights of Great Thinkers
  • May Sarton, The House by the Sea
  • Eleanor Catton, Birnam Wood
  • George Saunders, A Swim in a Pond in the Rain
  • John McPhee, The Crofter and the Laird
  • Samantha Rose Hill, Hannah Arendt
  • Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, In Love with the World
  • Terrence Real, I don’t want to talk about it
  • Shane O’Mara, In Praise of Walking
  • Virginia Woolf, Moments of Being
  • Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
  • Elisa Gabbert, The Word Pretty
  • Neil Theise, Notes on Complexity: A Scientific Theory of Connection, Consciousness, and Being. This is the one change on the list, replacing Owen Flanagan, The Really Hard Problem: Meaning in a Material World
  • Naomi Alderman, The Power
  • A.M. Homes, The Unfolding
  • Cormac McCarthy, The Passenger
  • Annie Dillard, For the Time Being

In addition, I should be finishing (finally!) The Adams-Jefferson Letters in the next day or two.

So, making some small progress. Obviously, there are many, many more books on the shelves, but I take some comfort from Tom Stoppard: Stoppard “cheerfully insists that he reads only one out of every 10 books he buys — ‘I’m going to be dead before I read the books I’m going to read’ — and that he should schedule an appointment for reading into his diary so that he doesn’t just ‘putter about tidying up my desk and making phone calls’” (gift link to New York Times article). I’m thinking of this list and others that I might make later as my version of the appointment for reading.