Every Book I’ve Ever Read . . .

For the remainder of this year, I’ve decided to go on a quest to recall and catalog every book I’ve ever read. With the help of Goodreads and the onset of colder weather in my part of the world, I think I can probably find time to comb through my memory banks, my bookshelves and the internet to remember each and every book I started and completed without skimming or any other little tricks.

The last I heard, the average person reads only about 100 books in their lifetime. I don’t believe this can possibly be true. Of course, “the average person” is highly contextual. The average person in America? In the “developed” world? In countries where women are not subject to restrictions on learning and access to information? The list could go on forever. So, I’m going to assume that this 100 books rule applies to Americans. Still sounds a little low to me. I’ve asked around and a couple people have told me I’m naive, and that the average person probably reads only as many books as they are required to read for school and work, with one or two culturally mandated reads thrown in there, like the Harry Potters and Fifty Shades. God I hope that’s not true.

At the National Book Festival this past weekend, I was struck by how many people braved the heat (yes, it was hot in Washington DC this past weekend) and the chill (it was also a little chilly in Washington DC this weekend; hey, climate change) just for a chance to look through and buy books, and possibly catch a glimpse of their favorite author. Even in a time of e-books and Kindles, Nooks and iPads, thousands turned out to look at books!

I know that Washington DC is probably the part of the country that is less representative of “real America” than just about any other place, but my optimistic nature makes me want to believe that had the festival been in Des Moines, Iowa, the turnout would have been just as great. Still, in DC we are blessed with many esteemed colleges and universities and virtually all of the “think tanks” of note in the nation. Not to mention countless not-for-profit organizations whose sole purpose is to educate and advocate for current and emerging issues. So I suppose there is an argument to be made that in this city, there is a proliferation of people who read and think about stuff all day long just because they get paid to do so.

Anyway, enough about Washington DC, otherwise I run the risk of slipping into a political diatribe of some sort.

So, back to my quest: as I embark on this journey of cataloging every book I’ve ever read, I invite anyone who’s interested to join in and do the same on Goodreads or Shelfari and to friend me. I don’t just want to remember what I’ve read, I would love to see what other folks are reading as well. Happy Reading!

-Nia-

Is My Kindle Making me Stupid?

Last week, I hit the ‘Buy’ button on Amazon.com, completing my purchase of a book titled The Inconvenient Mistress of an Italian (not the precise name, but very close). Now, under normal circumstances and in my right mind, I would never consider buying an actual hard copy book with such a title. But it was an e-book, AND free, so I consummated the “purchase” and put it in my Kindle collection entitled “Trashy Romances” (not to be confused with my also burgeoning collection of “Trashy Romantic Erotica”). By trashy, I don’t mean that it uses “naughty” words; naughty words are important and fun, and I use them frequently in my own writing. By trashy, I mean that these books are like candy: pleasant to taste but with no nutritive value whatsoever. In this case, however, it is not my body, but my brain that may be malnourished. When I go to Goodreads and peruse the books I’ve read, I’ll be honest, I feel a little self-satisfied. All of the so-called classics are there, many Pulitzer Prize-winning authors and more than a few obscure but stunningly talented writers. And when I buy books by authors such as these, I tend to want the hard copy. I like the feel of the pages between my fingers, the quiet whisper they give as I turn them. And perhaps most of all, I like later looking at the book on my shelves and having a memory of how it felt to discover it and enjoy it. It is as comforting a ritual as visiting old friends.

The e-books on my Kindle are different. They are like my dirty little secrets; books about women who “surrender” to something or “succumb” or “give in” which is curious because women who “give in” are a particular pet peeve of mine in real life. On my e-reader, I also have a fair number of books about monsters and vampires, killers and miscreants of various stripes. And lately, I have been devouring all of these genres, sometimes at a rate of three per week because they are so easy to consume. In fact, Amazon sells about one and a half times more e-books than they do hard copies, according to 2010 figures. But if my personal experience is any indication (and it may not be) I don’t think we should take this as evidence that we have a more literate society or anything. If anything, I’ve learned that men in erotic fiction are as likely to “growl” as they are to speak, and that the women will “squeal” and “whimper” quite a bit. I’ve also learned that there are many, many euphemisms for the female anatomy that I would never have even considered.

And most of all, I’ve learned that there is a fair chance that when you pay $0.99 for a book, that’s about all it’s worth. But as a self-pubbed writer myself who hesitates to charge more than $4.99, I don’t knock it. I love that publishing has become a super-democratic process where readers get to make their own choices about the value of someone’s writing, and that mammoth publishing houses no longer get to be the arbiters of what the reading public should have access to, because for sure I’ve discovered a few gems, countless diamonds still in the rough and one or two writers whose lack of a six-figure book deal is a travesty.

Still, there is that part of me drawn to the illicit hunt specifically for corny, poorly-written fiction which I devour at 3 a.m. both fascinated and repulsed. Oh, it’s all in good fun I tell myself. But I wonder, ultimately, is my Kindle making me stupid?