Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Quantity versus Quality

Do you measure your reading goal by the number of pages? Number of books? Or impact of the story? I've read a couple of pieces already this year about making reading a 2011 resolution. Heck, I already wrote one last week.

But I've noticed that a reading resolution can differ from person to person. On one of my list groups, participants rattled off huge numbers of books they'd read in 2010. My eyes widened at 50-60. I was amazed at someone flaunting 150. But when someone said 250, I rolled my eyes. That's when I realized that there's a difference between skimming and experiencing a book.

Just because publishers are spitting out books at the rate of half a million a year, doesn't mean you have to increase how fast you read. Frankly, it means you should be more selective, because even though self-publishing has allowed opportunity for overlooked quality writers to make a break, that industry has also allowed every Tom, Dick, and Harry to throw a story together. And most of them are on Amazon.

We want to be well read, but we need to remember the experiences that consume days of our lives. We don't attend any concert, purchase any music, or buy any clothes. We stop and think about our options. And we want to be able to remember the tunes, the performance, and would prefer to wear the clothes more than once or twice. Gosh, I've seen people agonize about their e-reader purchase, so why not enjoy it more by reading good books?

Then I read a blog post at Like the Dew, A Journal of Southern Culture and Politics entitled A Good Resolution to Make. Tom Poland describes his favorite books, some of his book moments. He's collected signed books, some which bring back memories. Sure, he prompts us to read more, but we can't settle into a book we race through so we can meet a book quota.

Read more, but read wisely. Make each book add quality to your life.


Anonymous said...

I love this... the "difference between skimming and experiencing a book"
You are so wise!
here's to experiencing books for enjoyment and everything that comes with the experience.

Tom Poland said...

Thanks for mentioning my column. I agree with you 100 percent. I'd rather read the same 10 books the rest of my life than many of the new books, which often disappoint me to no end.

BECKY said...

Ahh...Hope, as usual, you are wise and wonderful! When I "skim" through some blogs of people saying they have read an unfathomable amount of books (in my opinion) gives me a twinge of guilt....But now I see that I am OKAY! I totally agree with Tom and you. Thanks again for posting noteworthy information. I'm off to check out Tom's blog!

Susan said...

Hello Hope...I read for sheer enjoyment, to learn, or to clarify something. The number of books I read doesn't matter an iota to me. However, I like the idea of writing down titles of books I read in a year. Have a little blank Mary Englebreit book ready to go for that. She's one of my very favorite artists. Susan

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

My goal to read more books this year than last year comes more from a priority standpoint than anything else. I find I waste a lot of time doing other things when what I really want to be doing is reading. I was disappointed with the number of books I read in 2010, not because of what other people read/didn't read, etc. but because I knew I didn't spend as much time reading as I'd wanted to, as I could have. How many new/new to me authors and amazing books did I miss because I chose to putz around or to watch another TV show?

Doris Nehrbass said...

This reminds me of the time I took some survey classes in college. We had to read the Bible through in several versions and sign something saying we had done that in order to pass. I use the word "read" loosely because there is no way you can really read that much material in so short a time. While skimming may have its uses, how much better to take your time and savor a book. I'm sure most authors would want that.

Paul Callaghan said...

My long suffering wife thinks that my goal should be to read less books this year. Or, at least, build more bookshelves. I'd tell her I'd like to, but I'm too busy reading. And, as long as I can walk from my chair to the fridge and the bathroom, I don't have too many books.
The good ones get to be on special piles where I can reread them. Maybe I'm not that smart but if a book is good it's worth reading twice. If it's no good - give it to the charity shop. And don't be afraid to leave a book unfinished. If it's not doing it for you, put it away.

Moira Allen said...

Funny to read this now -- I was just looking at the stack of "next on the list" books, which are jammed into the shelf beside the couch. The "second to next on the list" books are shoved into the shelves at one end of the kitchen island, forcing me to move actual KITCHEN stuff (like food) to the garage. Then there are the two floor-to-ceiling fiction bookshelves in my bedroom, one of which is stacked two-deep on every shelf (the other is getting there). I never even thought of "book quotas" - my trouble is "so many books, so little time." I was actually thinking, the other day, that I wished I COULD read just a bit faster! At the rate at which I BUY books (thank you, Goodwill, for selling paperbacks at 5 for $2!!), I will never, ever be caught up. But isn't it wonderful to know that there are so many wonderful books out there, old and new?