Peering ahead to the new year, a portion of my reading “challenge” for 2018 is to move away from thinking of it so much as a challenge and more of something I just do. There may be some uneasy feelings speaking toward the “requiem” segment of this, our next title, it not sitting so well to remember the dead as part of a challenge. Maybe they wouldn’t mind; I don’t know. I just don’t want to forget them, and maybe that’s all they would want, too.
In the last couple of years, I think the first memory that brought me to where I am today, to this part, is of reading Siegfried Sassoon in high school literature classes. At that time and long after, I read everything about World War II I could get my hands on. The Great War—not so much. What I recall most from then were this poet, the horrible trenches and a theater of miserable mud. I didn’t really think of it all much post school. So it was curious that Sassoon came to mind so recently, and then here and there I saw references to that terrible time as centennial anniversaries rolled through the last few years. When I received a particular book for review, set during and after the “war to end all wars” that didn’t, I began to realize I should follow up on all of this.
Another contemplation I’d been having was to focus on my TBR—to be read. For the last couple of years I’ve been doing a lot of reviews, which I love, but admittedly took up a lot more of my time than I should have let them do. While I remain convinced of the massive amount of amazing stories hidden within the indie community (where most of my reviews came from), I also want—need—to delve into my own choices for reading material. This resulted in my two-pronged decision pertaining to book reviews and changes in how I do them:
- The time I spend on them will, by necessity, be significantly less than before. I’ll be doing fewer, and plan to shave off much of the analysis, aiming for greater succinctness.
- My choices will come from requests and my own perusals. Also, I may write about topics I’ve read books on, rather than reviews, per se (for my own picks), so I can vary content in the blog more than in the past. I’m also aiming to get back to more food entries and other fun stuff.
This all works together very nicely because, apart from enabling me to continue this endeavor without losing touch with my family, I can spend some quality time with much (I hope) of what’s been roaming through my mind, themes and topics I wish to explore and learn more about. As it happens, lots of books about the Great War reside on my TBR, including such works as: Jünger’s Storm of Steel; Testament of Youth, Vera Brittain’s memoir that has also been made into a film; The Summer Before the War and All Quiet on the Western Front.
I decided to read at least one book each month to observe the 100th anniversary of war’s end, marked by a phrase most know: “At the eleventh hour, on the eleventh day of the eleventh month ….” Nearly a full year will pass before we reach that early-morning moment, and, especially in these days of historical omissions and fabrications, I hope we shall remember November 11, 1918 long after the novelty of its centennial observation concludes. The people—the living and the dead—given their place in the two-minute silence deserve no less.
There are, of course, many other titles on my TBR, including a great number that have literally been sitting on my shelves collecting dust. Some are ones I’d picked up in the past, knowing I may or may not like them. They looked promising, though, obviously, but leaving them forgotten for so long seemed so wasteful. For that and because I also began to run out of space, I determined to make a physical change to the setting, that of cleaning up and clearing out.
In addition to the bi-annual wiping down of the house, as I call it, occasionally I instigate a purge, typically when conditions approach those they now do: overcrowded spaces occupied by items unused or that have outlived their usefulness. While hesitant to place books in the latter category, I would concede that if they aren’t being read and hopefully enjoyed, then they belong to someone else. I went through the last of the shelves overnight: taking them all down and going through each individually, dusting the shelves, and replacing with those books unread that I fully intend to, or those experienced but that have extra special significance to my own journeys. At one point I may let go of these too, but for now I take it a little bit at a time.
And of those not returning to my shelves? They deserve to find a special place in other readers’ lives; those readers, too, should be able to experience the magical journeys and amazing tales I have been so fortunate to happen upon. Some I haven’t read, and I set them aside to explore and figure out if each is a good match for me, which could indeed include the phrase literacy teachers employ: the “right book, right now.” At some point I may want to return to one or more, but that is for later. Any that aren’t good fits for me when I pick them up will have storytelling opportunities elsewhere.
The newly opened space on my book cases are ones I’m unaccustomed to, but the refreshed emptiness, as well as the removed books’ path ahead, represent the unknown, really, something that awaits all of us in the future. I find this fitting as well, for all of this, my reading goals and the opening up, gifts us the dual perspective of remembering the past while continuing to look into and create a better future.
I don’t have a number in mind yet, that is for how many books I aim to read, apart from the twelve Great War works. Similar to last year (which was only yesterday!), numbers really aren’t as important as the content and quality I take away from what I read, how it can enrich my life and others’, even if in smaller ways. So, I may just choose a random number and when I reach it, equally randomly tack on another set.
So for the long and the short, I’ll be reading and remembering the Great War through the year, with a number attached only to keep myself up to date, in short enough segments of time that I can aim to experience a rewarding range of perspectives, themes, genres and approaches, but each long enough to give me time and space to process individual works thoughtfully, without any sort of systematic but senseless rush.
Simultaneously I’ll be re-uniting with my TBR and choosing books to read I’ve been wanting to for so long. I actually got a bit of an early start with that in the last month, despite the slowdown I wrote about yesterday, and overall it’s been glorious. I’m looking forward to those moments when something pops in my head and connected to it a book I know I have. “Oh, I think I’ll read that!” Or when I can get a library book knowing I have a greater chance of reading it before it has to return to its base. Incidentally, my TBR does contain some previously-read titles, though I will let mood and interest mostly dictate whether I get to them or not.
I know there are other bloggers and readers out there with their own challenges, and I’m looking forward to seeing their ideas, and sharing in many different ways the journey through 2018. Happy New Year!!!
Erin Davies’s Presidential Challenge at Flashlight Commentary
Stephanie M. Hopkins’s 2018 Reading Goals at Layered Pages
January 1, 1918: This day 100 years ago marks the period between the Battle of Jaffa (December 1917) and the withdrawal (March 1918) of the 52nd (Lowland) Division to the Western Front. The 54th (East Anglian) stayed on and would take part in operations at Berukin (April 1918) and later (September 1918) at the battle of Sharon.
(Scroll to bottom of Revolvy page to see additional links there.)