change of plan

Why So Silent?

This project is going nodamnwhere.

According to Goodreads, in my plan to read 52 books this year, I’m ten books behind. This is because I have read zero books.

I’m still theoretically in the middle of City of God and Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. But I dropped out of #CivDei weeks ago, and as for the Mackay book, I’d just forgotten how badly you can hurt a fun thing by treating it as a duty. (I shouldn’t even complain: I knew, even intended, that the emotional atmosphere of this project would be one of crimped, arbitrary legalism and chafing self-resentment. Please don’t judge me for that; judging me is my job.)

All this was more or less to be expected; as I’ve said before, I’m not a reader. But at some point I’ve got to break out of this slump. Being behind, even well behind, is one thing – but if I never read anything, then why do I even have a blog?

Enter Svengoolie

No, really. I may be aliterate, but that doesn’t mean I’m cut off from all culture; every Saturday night I spend somewhere between four and nine consecutive hours watching genre shows on MeTV. This past Saturday, that included a presentation of the 1943 Phantom of the Opera.

It turned out to be a veritable compendium of things I know, love, or admire: Claude Rains! Opera! Technicolor! A guy sacrificing and sacrificing for somebody who doesn’t know he exists and being incredibly resigned about it! Fritz Leiber’s dad, also named Fritz Leiber (which confuses people)! Hummable music! And, of course, a small but appreciable quantity of Phantomy goodness!

This leads to the following sequence of events:

  • I experience a serious relapse of Phantom Phever.
  • I attempt a cure by redevouring the work of Anne Myers (plus a bit of Phantom Reviews, for yang).
  • Predictably enough, this only makes it worse.
  • I get it in my head that I want to read the Leroux novel, because I never have (not in its entirety).
  • I bitch and moan to myself because I can’t very well read a book I want to read until I’m done with the books I told everybody I was reading.
  • I realize how silly that sounds; I’m a fscking free agent and I can read whatever book I like.
  • So there.

(Reading outside books is not technically against The Rules, anyway; it just messes with pyatiletnii plan.)

Prolly won’t do an intro post or anything “official” like that, since it’s not actually part of the project, but I may write about it if I think of something to say.

Final Tweaks

So as I actually get into reading City of God, I realize how greatly I have overestimated my ability to read anything with any real speed. (I’m also a bit busy with classes – I’m taking Anatomy & Physiology; it’s frightening – so this is not purely a story of laziness and fail.)

Anyway, I’ve decided to stretch my three-year plan into five. This puts me at 53.2 books per year; if I read a straight 52 this year, I’ll still just have 53 or 54 to read for each of the other years. And I do mean to keep it to 52 – this is still Bible year. (At least I don’t have to tackle the dictionaries till later.)

Anyway, I hope that’s it for embarrassing news. As for happy news, my Christmas gift from Kid Sister has finally arrived.

Sara Bickley


Okay, so what I called the “final shape” of my library… well, isn’t. I have just received (and am, I confess, internally squeeeing about) a copy of Immemorial Silence that my uncle sent me. (Which, by the way, solves the mystery: Divine Enticement must have been from my grandma.) Apparently there was just a bartick of a shipping delay. Considering that he ordered it well before the end of the year, and the whole project’s just begun, and all that, I’d have to be awfully churlish not to stir it in. I’m told my sister has a Christmas present – possibly of the printed and bound variety – in the offing for me, too.

I have a planned procedure in place for books that people may (in ignorance or forgetfulness) give me in the future. But these, I guess, have snuck in just under the wire.

(On a personal note, I went to the grocery store today and didn’t stop by the book racks, and felt very tough and accomplished about that. I have to celebrate these small victories because, as you will – if you keep up with this blog – hear me repeat many, many times, I suck.)

This also means the number of books in the library no longer divides evenly by three. I’m going to keep 88 as my goal number for this year, though: that’s an insane enough challenge, on account of I have all those Bibles and dictionaries to get through.

Stamp: Catalogued on LibraryThing

The Final Shape of My Library

Notable Non-Acquisitions

To begin with, some fail. A couple of weeks ago I put out a request for recommendations. Most of the suggestions I ended up with came face-to-face from family members, but two dudes on Twitter also chimed in. They suggested two books – The Dice Man and All the Light We Cannot See – that sounded interesting and thought-provoking, and one – The Screwtape Letters – that is a longstanding favorite of mine.

I didn’t get any of those books. I looked for them, but either I was looking in the wrong sections, or the stores were just plumb out. This was especially weird in the case of All the Light We Cannot See, which as a recent bestseller and generally huge book should have been somewhere in Barnes & Noble. (Actually, d’oh, I just realized I was looking for it in general fiction instead of in the bestsellers antighetto. I may have missed out on it just by failing to think like a bookstore.)

(About The Screwtape Letters: I gave away my latest copy because it had these icky, whimsical illustrations that made me unwilling to open it. I thought I’d be getting a new one for Christmas, but something in the hints-and-wishes machine must have broken down.)

Why, you ask, can’t I just acquire these good books at my leisure and add them in then? Because I planned to freeze my library at the start of the project, and I’m sticking to that plan. Pointless rigidity, missed opportunities, and the enforcement of a creeping sense of failure are what this project is all about.

The Last Additions

I originally thought I might be opening book-shaped Christmas presents until Epiphany (hence the mention of January 6th in the intro post), but as it turned out, I got my last two on the 30th and 31st of December. One was City of God, from my father; the other was Karmen MacKendrick’s Divine Enticement, from either my grandmother, my uncle, or my grandmother and my uncle (this could stand to be cleared up, though they would tell me it doesn’t matter).

One Blank Space

Finally, one book that I consider part of my library isn’t actually in my hands yet. It’s The Private Life of Lord Byron, which is being got up by subscription (or “crowdfunded,” as the kids are saying these days) and which I reckon will be published some time during the course of this project. I signed on a good long time ago, and as far as I’m concerned the copy that I shall have is already “mine.” Imagine, if you like, a little block of wood on my shelf, holding its place.


I have 263 books catalogued now – so, including The Private Life of Lord Byron, 264 in all. This divides neatly into a 3-year reading plan, 88 books a year. So a year from now, I hope to have gotten as far as Cathedrals of the World.

I’ll probably be doing something about my very dirty metadata in the future, so classifications may change, but for now here’s the breakdown of books by Melvil Decimal class:

  • 2 in the 000s
  • 9 in the 100s
  • 49 in the 200s
  • 12 in the 300s
  • 11 in the 400s
  • 2 in the 500s
  • 9 in the 700s
  • 158 in the 800s
  • 9 in the 900s

(I never read novels and yet like a quarter of my library is novels. Go figure.)

I’ve already entered some 200 of these books in my Goodreads account. I’ll get the rest done, eh, sometime.