Before moving to Bend, I enjoyed wine far more than beer.
But Bend is a craft brew heaven, and through the wonderful tastings and food pairing events in town I’ve been able to figure out exactly what I like: barrel-aged dark beers. Especially bourbon or wine barrel-aged stouts, porters or barleywine. These are not session beers – those lighter brews that can be enjoyed repeatedly in one night. No, these are the powerful, full-bodied examples that are sipped from a snifter, enjoyed slowly over a couple hours, a little going a long way.
It’s time I had this same kind of pleasure with my books.
For the past couple years I have done a couple different reading challenges – 12 Books in 12 Months, the 2/3 Book Challenge, and the GoodReads annual challenge. I don’t do so well at giving myself a list of specific titles to read, but I’ve had no problem at all meeting the goal of numbers. In 2011 I read 49 books and last year I read 81. I know, that sounds crazy, but most of the books were either graphic novels or some sort of YA fiction series. Just as there are session beers, these were session books – easy to read several in a week or a month.
But I think all this session reading has come at the cost of any “bigger” reading. When was the last time I read a powerful, full-bodied book? There were a couple back in April with a solid lingering taste, but otherwise … not so much. So for 2013, I’m only challenging myself to read 13 books. I will probably read more than that, but I’m focusing on the big chewy books that I haven’t had the patience to digest. Books like Middlemarch by George Eliot, the essays of Montaigne, The People’s History by Howard Zinn.
Behind all this, I have three books from which I will read just one page each day. There were a lot of books I considered for this little experiment, but ultimately I chose these three because in many ways they are already set up to be enjoyed in small sips and they each blend text and images in interesting ways:
The Arthurian Book of Days by Caitlin and John Matthews
A nugget of Arthurian legend for every day of the year with images of Medieval illustrations and tapestries. The story is not exactly told in order, as the nuggets have been lined up with days or seasons that best reflect when that particular incident happened, and since the story spanned many years, there will be a mix of young Arther next to old Arthur. I imagine it will feel like reading an Arthurian Memento.
The Book of Imaginary Beings by Jorge Luis Borges
A recent piece in The Guardian talked about dipping into this book at random and that might be where I got the idea to read just a page a day over the course of a year. Borges is one of my favorite writers even though I’ve barely touched his treasure of stories and essays. This is a small book so I’m hoping to spend some time with his Ficciones later this year, too.
. . .
Moby Dick in Pictures by Matt Kish
I have never read Moby Dick before. I never thought I would, either. But the great white whale came up on my radar a lot this past year – starting with a Brain Pickings post about this book, and the recordings from the Moby Dick Big Read, and then most recently Mark and I read a series of graphic novels called The Unwritten, one of which featured The Whale as imagined by both Melville and others. When I saw a pristine unwrapped copy of the book at a local book store, I figured it must be fate.
Sprinkled between these big heavy reads there will still be some graphic novels and the latest sequel to the various YA series I’ve been reading already. I’m hoping the emphasis on longer, richer works will teach me to better appreciate patient reading over instant gratification. Here’s to books and a new year of reading!