The Solemn Reader: Cheating on Your Reading List

This weekend I cheated. It is a shocking event, and I regret it.   I CHEATED ON MY READING PLAN.

Those of you who rely on spreadsheets to tell you what to do will consider me weak-minded.  Those of you who are twenty-first-century bohemians will wonder why anyone would make a plan at all.  

Perhaps you’ve been there.  You have a new hardcover planner.  You LOVE making checklists.  You see nothing peculiar in deciding to read  Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, Thackeray’s The Newcomes, and Rebecca West’s Black Lamb and Grey Falcon:  A Journey through Yugoslavia in the same month.  I believed I could read all three.  Then my husband pointed out the project had 3,000 pages.

It was getting to be kind of a drag.  Three such serious books.  All great…and yet.  So serious (except for Thackeray, who has a great sense of humor).   I adore Anna Karenina (964 pages), which I’ve read many times.  All finished!  Soon, soon I will get back to the others.

At first I cheated on them with relatively short books. I didn’t care much for Jeanine Cummins’s new novel American Dirt, which was not as short as I wished (400 pages), but it was fast.  Then I galloped through Patrick Dennis’s 1962 comic novel, Genius, which was lots of fun and only  300 pages.  And now I’m planning something even shorter–a Barbara Pym. 

I must say, cheating on my plan has been a blast. But I cannot believe my hero, George Eliot, would have cheated on a READING plan.  Jane Austen, maybe.  Pamela Hansford Johnson, definitely.  She breezily read (or skimmed) five or six review copies in day and then hurriedly scribbled the reviews.  Shocking!  But she was such a good writer. 

I WILL get back on track. 

In this age we need so many checklists and plans. I’m always reading about plans and checklists.   Honestly, it starts to feel almost RIGHT-WING!  Now I’m back to my pragmatic self: reality.  God knows how many pages I have already read this month!   I will return to the  charming Thackeray (880 pages), but will postpone the Rebecca West (1,181 pages).  I have learned that I have little interest in the Balkans.  


7 thoughts on “The Solemn Reader: Cheating on Your Reading List”

  1. Mostly, yes, I do stick with them. Only occasionally I have little diversions, which usually urge me back to my plans. One trick I’ve found is that I can’t make them too far in advance – I like them to seem at least a little bit whimsical. *snorts at self* Perhaps because I have unreasonable expectations about how much reading can fit into a day (or a week, or a month), I find the plans almost comforting when they’re carefully drawn up – if I just follow them, I will fall into the next book and then the next and so on.

    Pamela Hansford Johnson…I’ve not read her fiction (I think I have something on my shelf though?) but I know she was one of the authors who did not enjoy Elizabeth Taylor’s fiction and took regular opportunities to say so – that didn’t recommend her to me. I feel a little better about that, now that I realize she couldn’t possibly have read her work very carefully if that was the kind of reading schedule she espoused to follow! 🙂

    1. Good lord, how could PHJ not like Elizabeth? That said, I also like Pamela’s books.

      I need to put fewer books on my reading plans! are the way to go

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