You say you want a resolution

So I’m reading all I can.

Blogs, remember those? So evanescent, so bygone, so early two-thousands. However. Something I read on a lit blog 20 years ago has me preoccupied and galvanized in this young year.

A commenter—responding to some post that’s itself lost to memory—reckoned that her average reading pace was two books a month. She had punched that average, her age, and her life expectancy into a calculator. The number it spat out was 520. Five hundred and twenty books she still had time to read.

Yikes. That few? At the time I was quite a bit younger than the commenter, with a good chance to read more than that. Still, her number haunted me, stark and finite. Whatever my number, it was certainly also finite. I needed to get in gear and start devouring books by the stack.

Alas, the reality over these two decades has been that I find myself reading less, not more. Reader, it pains and shames me to admit that the book habit—once one of the very ways I defined myself—has been, more and more, not my habit.

How could this be? Once upon a time, I was an English graduate student, before that a junior book editor. Once upon a time, I had a younger person’s eyesight. Once upon a time, I commuted by train for many blissfully solitary minutes a day. Once upon a time—hardest of all to own up to—I didn’t have a smartphone stocked with ready distractions.

Thus, a New Year’s resolution, though I have never been a resolutions person, for all of the standard reasons: Arbitrary. Predictable. Disingenuous. Self-punishing. Reading more books seems to skirt those categories, plus it’s fun. My goal is one a week, with slim tomes heavily represented.

January brought The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and Call for the Dead by John le Carré (out of their intended order); Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome (taut and bleak); and now Shirley Hazzard’s The Great Fire (good, but no Transit of Venus). A friend who is a resolutions person has advised that the key is to keep going even when I fall off the pace. So far, so good. As you delve into this issue, happy reading from a happy reader.

P. S. Have you ever made a New Year’s resolution of the literary kind? Tell us about it at