It doesn’t sound particularly significant, and in the grand scheme of things it really isn’t, but I’m pleased to be able to say that I finished a book this week.
Not that I’ve written one, mind you.
I just managed to finish reading one.
The fact that this is remarkable is a source of concern to me.
This lovely poster (sourced from the endless inspiration curated over at Brainpickings) sums up how I feel about reading, books, knowledge and general bibliophilia.
But late last year I had a terrible realisation. I was starting books, but I wasn’t finishing them.
I seemed to have fallen into a very particular kind of reader’s block. One where, although I would be enjoying each book, somehow it would just fade from view once I’d got over halfway through it.
I could probably post-rationalise each instance, of course.
Rock biographies got less interesting as the focus moved towards the subject’s later career (Bowie, Keef).
Maybe work got busier and meant the focus was less directly on the latest marketing/business book I was reading.
In some cases my usual reading window (the work commute) was taken over by work/blackberry/drafting posts for this blog, and a few days’ break from the book would somehow become weeks, and the impetus went.
Then there was the usual ‘breaking distance’ problem I sometimes have with starting a new novel. This is what happens when I’ve just finished one book and the momentum carries over. I convince myself I’m diving headlong into something new, when I’m actually slowing down from the last one. It usually takes me about 50 pages till I concede defeat…
So this year, I’ve made a promise to myself that I will finish books. Like this says.
To help me along I’ve started keeping track of some of the books that directly or indirectly feed into this blog.
aNobii is a lovely beta site that helps you log your own library (and the app makes it seriously usable), write reviews, keep track of recommendations from other users. This is my bookshelf, and at MEC we have a shared one as well.
I was worried that my attention span was diminishing, of course.
The book I’ve just finished, and the one I’m just starting, make feel slightly better about why that is. Each is well worth reading if you want cogent analysis of what’s behind the sheer over-abundance of stuff we have to process today – and if you want to feel a bit more able to deal with it, too.
Retromania by Simon Reynolds covers music, and its obsession with the past (whether archiving it, recycling it, curating it, remixing it, being haunted by it or simply running out of it). But inevitably he touches on technology and its ability to endlessly stream and reproduce anything from any time. A successful life amidst all this stimulus is one that allows you to be ‘immersed without drowning’.
The Age of Absurdity trawls the lessons from philosophers and thinkers (the Stoics, Buddhists, Spinoza) to counter some of the mania of the present – consumption, advertising, our own consciousness.
It’s principle lesson seems so far to be about living in the moment, not complaining, not feeling entitled, and engaging with experience in a way stops you from being over-powered by it.
As Seneca said, around 2000 years ago, nailing the ‘what’s next’ problem we have in the modern, connected world: “the greatest hindrance to living is expectancy, which depends upon tomorrow and wastes today”.
My aim is to try and review these properly through aNobii as I go.
Now all I have to do is finish the book.