As a new year unfolds, people reflect on what occurred in the old one. Those reflections often come from professional writers—David Barry’s amusing and insightful summary of the year’s events, for example. Some are informative lists of the “best” books, movies, music, television shows, or plays of the year which help to inform my reading or viewing. Some of the reflections come from “ordinary” folk in a broadsheet carefully creased into a holiday card telling me what the writers and their incredibly marvelous and accomplished children and grandchildren have done during the calendar year. (A friend used to send us one of these. We were slightly amazed at all the interesting things they had done throughout the year until we realized that one of the described events was something we had done with them, something that to the spouse and me was so unexceptional that we barely remembered it.)
I have not engaged in such annual retrospection. The end of December seems arbitrary to me for this task. A new calendar may be tacked to the kitchen bulletin board but in my gut a year naturally ends and begins with a change of the season—the coming of spring or the end of summer. January 1 in the dead (interesting phrase) of winter does not feel like the beginning of a new year.
I don’t engage in such yearly retrospection except, sort of, for an annual book list. I record the books I read each year starting with January 1. This recordkeeping is now a decade old, but I have not done the compilation for any reflection at the end of the year. I often do not remember what I have read, not the title, author, or content. I often do not know whether I have read a book that I am considering, nor could I tell someone the identifying information of a book that I might recommend. To remedy these shortcomings, I started my book list. I seldom refer to the list except occasionally to answer the question, Have I read that? Or, What was the title of that book?
The list does not include many comments. I note whether the book came from a library or its form if I read something other than a traditional print version. No notes indicate that I own the book and should search my shelves if I want to look at it again.
In the second year, I began to number the volumes on each year’s entries. I had no reason other than curiosity so I could see how many books I had read in the year. This, however, soon morphed into a bit of OCDism. I set a quota each year, and I became uncomfortable if I felt I was falling behind the necessary pace to reach the goal.
Last year, however, I met my self-imposed number well before the end of the year. Part of me felt that to finish more books before December 31 was a waste. They should be pushed off into the next year to make attaining the new quota easier. I paused in reading a half dozen books last December so that I could finish them in the first week of January to get me ahead of the OCD book curve. I realized that that was silly and resolved not to do it again. On the other hand, I still find myself apprehensive about starting a thick book when I am not on the “correct” pace.
This year, partly because of my 2021 cheating, I completed my quota early, but even though it makes me a bit uneasy about making 2023’s “required” number, I did not “artificially” alter my book reading. It is sad that this disregard for the coming year added an element of devil-may-care to my life.
(concluded January 4)