24 December 2010

Novel novels project

For those of you who don't know (and since I'm mostly talking to myself here ... well, whatever) I like to read. A lot. Alotalotalotalotalotalotalotalotalotalot.

Quite a bit, is what I'm saying.

About one year ago, I was getting fed up with what I'm going to call the rapid re-read phenomenon.
The first time you read a book, you understand it one way, based on where you are in your life. Then, when you read it again, you understand it in a different way, based on where you are at that point. I've always thought the differences in understanding that you note can be almost important as the influence of the book itself, because it's a way to track the variations in your own worldview.

Here's where the rapid re-read phenomenon comes in. I noticed that if I re-read a book in rapid succession, with, say a four-month interim, I wasn't so much noting the — at that time, very minor — differences between the last time I read and the current time, I was moulding my current read to my last read, effectively making sure I wasn't getting anything new out of the current read.

Although wasting my time with the current read was annoying, that by itself probably wouldn't have spawned the novel novels project. What did it was what I noticed when I read a book for the third time in rapid succession. If four months had passed between the first and second reads, lets say 12 months passed between the second and third reads. Ordinarily, an interim period of this length would not be problematic, but because I had reinforced my first read by reading a second time in rapid succession, that first version of the read was in my mind more firmly than a single read, 12 months ago, would have been under other circumstances. My interpretation of the book, during the third read, would closely mirror those of the first and second reads.

I was afraid that if I kept reading a book with not enough time between readings, that I would lose the ability to understand the book in new ways, because I would be forever stuck in the rut of my first understanding — or whichever understanding had been reiterated.

And so, I decided to go one year without reading any books I'd read before: to read only novel novels, as it were. I do read more than just novels, but the name amused me, so I stuck with it. I started this project on January first, 2010. Sometime in June or July I decided to extend the project beyond just the year, until my 25th birthday, in July 2012.

My primary goal with this project was to avoid the rapid re-read phenomenon, but I am enjoying a major secondary effect: discovering new authors, and new books by previously read authors, to a lesser extent. I find myself having much more to read, many more books checked out from the library and many more requests into the library. Before I started the project, I would only seek out new books if I was bored and my weekly browse-around-the-library didn't get me much. Now, whenever I hear or read someone talking about a book, I will either do a little research to see if I might be interested or just skip that altogether and add it straight-away to my library request list. I am constantly on the lookout for new books, and so I see them all over the place.

I plan to post all the books I've read this year in the next few days, with my star rating and perhaps a few words about what I liked.

No comments:

Post a Comment