As a new year begins, the possibilities seem endless and we set hopeful goals that we are bound to achieve in the future.
My 2024 resolution may seem strange from someone who spends so much time reading, but my goal this year is to read fewer books.
Because of my role as Biblioracle, I have always felt a certain responsibility to read as many books as possible, due to the sheer number of interesting books published each year – not to mention the almost infinite number of older titles I have yet to get to. as much as possible. In practical terms, this means at least one book a week, and often more than that.
Last year I wrote about I briefly panicked, thinking it would take me weeks to read Paul Murray’s “The Bee Sting.” I considered giving it up so I could read more books, but sticking with it resulted in the most profound reading experience of the year. The last four months of the year had me working to deadline on a book manuscript of my own and limited my reading time. My lack of reading productivity was weighing down my mind.
But then I reacquainted myself with a book I read years ago, “Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain” by Maryanne Wolf, and realized that I wanted to slow down this year.
“Proust and the Squid” is an exploration of “deep reading” from every conceivable angle. Deep reading is the feeling we can experience when engaging with a book in a way that causes our brain to make connections and associations, literally building knowledge and understanding through the reading experience. Part of Wolf’s book describes evidence from actual neuroscientific studies that show how different parts of our brains light up when we read deeply. But mostly we know it when we feel it.
Deep reading is a skill, and like any skill, it is one that can weaken if not enough practice. The nature of our online reading-based information diet makes deep reading a relatively rare part of my day, and while I can still get lost in a book, it doesn’t come as easily as it used to.
I was too focused on “consuming” books, going through them just to say I read them. I want to make sure I extract all possible meaning from a particular reading experience, including the experience of getting lost in a book. That’s what drew me to reading in the first place.
I’m taking a few practical steps to help myself on this journey. I take the 15-book-high pile of unread books from the nightstand and put them on the shelf in the closet. I once thought of this pile as motivation, a way to get excited about things to come, but it also has the potential to rush what I’m currently doing.
I won’t hesitate to buy longer books, provided they interest me enough. In recent years, I have generally eschewed one long book so that I can read three shorter ones. As long as the book interests me, why should it bother me if it takes me a few weeks to finish it?
I expect this to be a bit of a challenge, but that seems to be the case for every worthwhile solution. We cannot expect to receive rewards without overcoming some challenge.
I can’t wait to enjoy the stories that 2024 will bring me.
John Warner is the author of “Why They Can’t Write: Killing the Five-Paragraph Essay and Other Requirements.”
Book recommendations from Biblioracle
John Warner tells you what you should read, based on the last five books you’ve read.
1. “PG Wodehouse in His Own Words” by Barry Day and Tony Ring
2. “How to Know a Person” By David Brooks
3. “And Yet…” by Christopher Hitchens
4. “From Beirut to Jerusalem” by Thomas Friedman
5. “The Shining Future Was Ours” By David Leonhardt
—Rick F., Palatine
Rick seems like a reader looking for insights into the world around him. I’m going with a small press (Belt) book that isn’t as well known as his list, but that I think will surprise him with its deep insights into the lives we live: “Midwest Futures” by Phil Christman.
1. “Armor of Light” By Ken Follett
2. “Verified: Thinking Straight, Being Less Fooled, and Making Better Decisions About What to Believe Online” By Mike Caulfield
3. “Conflict: The Evolution of War from 1945 to Ukraine” by David Petraeus
4. “Evil Copperhead” by Barbara Kingsolver
5. “The Wager: A Story of Shipwreck, Mutiny and Murder” By David Grann
—David M., Chicago
I think Luis Alberto Urrea’s war novel “Good Night Irene” would suit David very well.
1. “Book Lovers” By Emily Henry
2. “Tomorrow, Tomorrow and Tomorrow” By Gabrielle Zevin
3. “Things We Never Get Over” According to Lucy Score
4. “Tom Lake” By Ann Patchett
5. “Gone Girl” By Gillian Flynn
— Lilly T., Chicago
How about a witty, entertaining mystery: “Everyone in My Family Killed Someone” by Benjamin Stevenson.
Get a reading from Bibliocle
Send a list of the last five books you read and your hometown to: firstname.lastname@example.org.