January 5th, 2006

Book Count, 2005

So, in 2004 I started logging every book that I read. Originally this was supposed to be a first step toward reviewing them all, but that turned out to be way too big a project. I read too much for that! Instead, I found that I really like to be able to look back on what I was reading when. Seeing the titles reminds me of related books I want to read, books that I particularly liked, and what sorts of neat ideas the books gave me. It also has the nice side bonus of allowing me to track how much I read over the course of a given year.

Unfortunately, my careful logging system broke down this past semester when I got very busy with school. Even more unfortunately, it’s not that I stopped reading books - I just started piling my read books on my desk to log, um, later. Well, the semester’s over and I’ve accumulated a giant pile of books which is way too intimidating to go through and catalog, though I’m hoping to slowly attack the pile over the course of the next few days.

Of course, this isn’t going to stop me from figuring out what I read last year, by dint of counting how many books are in the giant pile.  My count may not be totally accurate, but so far, it looks like I’ve broken my 2004 record by quite a lot!  In 2004, though, I didn’t include either academic reading or non-traditional formats (for example, comics or role-playing books) while this year I did include them, so I can’t really tell whether I’m reading more or less than I have in the past.

For the curious, my number for 2005 is an even 300 books . . . which means there were only 65 days out of the year when I didn’t finish a book. I attribute most of those to finals and a couple of very heavy non-fiction books (for example, The Noonday Demon) which took me a while to get through. Still, if I include academic articles and am more careful about logging my school reading, I imagine that next year I can easily claim that I’ve read a book a day.

I have no idea what I would do if I couldn’t read this much. I get cranky really, really fast if I don’t get my daily reading time . . . .

Reading List: Father Brown Complete Stories (5)

Read: The Complete Father Brown, G. K. Chesterton. This single-volume collection includes five separate volumes of Father Brown stories, so I’m counting it as five books. And if you object, neener neener to you!

I rather liked the moral universe that Chesterton builds up over the course of the stories. Chesterton doesn’t pretend to be friendly to atheists, or to spiritualism, or really to any religion that isn’t Catholicism - but at least he’s fairly overt about his prejudices on that front. If you ignore his attitude that there’s only One True Faith, though, he has some wonderfully cogent moral points that he builds right in to the stories. Father Brown spends his time dealing with thieves, murderers and criminals of other assorted sorts - and the way he handles them in-story demonstrates just what Chesterton thinks one should do about sin and crime (not always the same thing).

I think my favorite moment is toward the end of “The Chief Mourner of Marne.” While it’s not the best story in the collection, Father Brown gets to make a fantastic point about forgiveness and charity. I won’t spoil the story by telling you the context of the speech, but the point is that it’s easy to forgive things that seem forgivable (for example, crimes of passion). Our greater duty, though, is to try to understand and forgive and offer compassion when the act seems unforgivable and even incomprehensible. That is true compassion - to be compassionate even when it seems impossible.

On a lighter front, I also loved the way that Father Brown is constantly trying to explain how the crime was done mid-story, but no one ever listens to him because he’s so quiet and mild-mannered. Hee.

By the way, if my keeping a reading list here will bother you, this is the time to speak up. I’m going to try to include capsule reviews for purposes of not being too boring, but I can’t promise I’ll always have time to write about what I’m reading. Writing about my reading is one of my New Year’s resolutions, though, so I hope you folks are interested in hearing it!