We are continuing this year with the goal of averaging twenty-five pages per day. Last year's average was a tad over twenty if we count the forty-three books we completed and the portions of nine others in which we've made significant progress. For example, I started Selected Non-Fictions by Jorge Luis Borges in January, and read a bit almost every day--often rereading a portion from the previous day because I forget where exactly I'd gotten on the bookmarked page, or failed to recall or comprehend the passage. On December 31, I was mid-way through the essay, "Dante and the Anglo-Saxon Visionaries," that begins on page 287. In the supplemental log, I noted 286 pages in this book. The book begins on page 3, but prefaces are not counted and are numbered separately in most books, so the actual number of pages read differs slightly from the official count.
To the extent that our Reading Challenge was a contest, my wife won. Her twenty-one completed books totaled over 7000 pages, while my twenty-two were significantly under 6500. But, when we add in the unfinished books, we both read more than 7500 pages. I'm about four dozen pages ahead in this count. In other words, I could have won (even though it was a challenge, not a contest).
Twenty-five pages per day works out to 9125 pages each. My first effort will be to finish several excellent books that I set aside for reasons I won't go into. I've mentioned Borges; other good books are:
Claude McKay, Home to Harlem (1928)
Barton Gellman, Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency (2008)
Plato, The Laws
I also plan to finish two books that are disappointing. One is poorly written; the other superficial.
John McCain, Faith of My Fathers (1999)
John Talbott, Obamanomics (2008)
My wife's unfinished list includes a memoir that I read in April: Barack Obama, Dreams from My Father (1995). She's also reading Building Suburbia (2003) by Delores Hayden, which I started while waiting in her office one afternoon. I might pick it up again. It's one of several in our home library purchased for her work in economic development, but also drawing from and contributing to academic work in my field of American studies.
Modernism and Postmodernism
My wife also read a chunk of Thomas Pynchon, Mason & Dixon (1997), while I continue to be tempted to make another effort at getting through Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow (1973). But every time I pull it off the shelf, I remember the value of first laboring through James Joyce, Ulysses, and starting that without first reading all of Homer's Iliad and Odyssey seems senseless.
Among the six novels I read in 2008, Dom Casmurro by Machado de Assis, translated by Helen Caldwell (1953) was exceptional; also worthy of rereading is Don DeLillo, Falling Man (2007). It horrifies me to report six novels in one year because not many years ago that was a common monthly total. Alas, our world is less and less one of books, and the ramifications could be disastrous. Consider the benefits of reading as Maryanne Wolf expresses it near the end of Proust and the Squid (2007).
Socrates never knew the secret at the heart of reading: the time it frees for the brain to have thoughts deeper than those that came before. Proust knew this secret, and we do. The mysterious, invisible gift of time to think beyond is the reading brain's greatest achievement; these built-in milliseconds form the basis of our ability to propel knowledge, to ponder virtue, and to articulate what was once inexpressible--which, when expressed, builds the next platform from which we dive below or soar above.Reading enables the complexity of thought that our challenges require. Books offer the best prospects for extended reading, and hence the richest thoughts. Let us not forget President Theodore Roosevelt who reportedly read a book every night, and who expressed a strong preference for thick texts. It should be no surprise that John McCain chose that Republican leader to praise in his concession speech--one of the brightest moments in 2008.
Wolf, Proust and the Squid, 229.