As an essay spoiler alert, I won’t be giving a list of top novels I’ve read or even top anythings I’ve read. 2020 wasn’t a year where I felt well enough to do anything requiring deep concentration. Reading has always been difficult for me. I am not an overly-distracted individual, but for some reason, sitting with a novel can quickly distract me into myriad meandry thoughts. 2020 helped me appreciate using audiobooks to wade through mediocre readings.
This Betterread Gsheet has every book I read and finished or dropped this year.
I haven’t put much effort into this sheet to comprehensively track every novel, novella, or longer-than-a-short-story I’ve ever read outside of 2020 and most of 2019, so don’t take it as such, but it’s probably got about 80% of what I’ve read. It’s funny, I guess, and maybe somewhat sad that although I want to be a writer, I don’t overly enjoy the process of reading what others have written.
I think my distractions are because my brain is applying what it’s reading.
To that extent, when I read something interesting, what I’ll do is take notes or screenshots of what I’m reading to save those thoughts for later. If I read the same way I watch videos, then taking screenshots/notes is one way to minimize the flow of the video while maximizing the capturing of information I want to meander through at length. When I read in previous years, these thoughts would often distract me for minutes or hours at a time, so as I return to better health, and as I practice reading at more regular times – Maybe scheduling a 15-minute reading time in the morning? – once I can reliably concentrate without the spine pain I’ve been dealing with throughout most of 2020 permeating through all of my thoughts, then, I’ll read more.
My biggest reading victory has been overcoming the sense that literature is sacred.
I used to think that the problem with not enjoying “the classics” was a problem of my own and that I was at fault. That is partially true, in that I should try my best to appreciate the works as they are, but, I am also a writer of my time. I can’t pretend to be writing as I would be before the proliferation of the Internet. My preferred mediums for entertainment are primarily video-based, whether videogames or videos, but I haven’t yet enjoyed a single aspect of the production of video editing or creation, outside of bulk-producing livestreamed content.
I do enjoy writing fiction, however, so I know my intentions are pure.
Whether the whole apprehension I had toward reading was a matter of overcoming the physical format of reading or not, I’m not yet sure, but I know that for any book where I am not impressed by it, 2020 was the year where I finally became OK with two things: reading books digitally – libraries were shut down entirely for part of 2020 – and listening to audiobooks. I have no problem listening to an audiobook of a book I don’t care about as I would listen to a podcast or livestream, where I will listen to the words as I use my eyes to do other things. I am not much of a multi-tasker, but, when I have to wade through the words of a writer I do not love, it is a chore that prevents me from exploring more literature.
If my health improves, 2021 will be the year I’ll do better at actually reading daily.
Even if “reading” means reading news articles and listening to audiobooks, I think that will be the best way for me to process more literature through our contemporary perspectives. We can’t read as we did before the Internet, and part of that is because it is a constant source of distraction and information, rather than curiously imagining what a word might mean, we might fully be able to dig through its etymology at length. If that digging is more curious than what we were reading, we’d never complete that read. If I accept that I am a distracted person, whether through my own brain’s chemistry or my relationship to technology, then I can process the literature I can in the format that has the least amount of friction.
Why not listen to audiobooks the same way I’d listen to podcasts?
If that’s the case, then 2020 was also the year where I stripped back the number of videos and podcasts I listened to on a regular basis. I have an unlimited supply of videos being pushed out to me daily and I’ll never be able to watch them all. Same for literature and albums and every other piece of media. Why should I worry about doing it all? Media should, after all, be a source of education, entertainment, edutainment, and exploration throughout the many perspectives of our world. It is good and healthy to want to explore many perspectives, but exploring “them all” might be a bit excessive.
2021, then, should be my year to completing or dropping more literature.
House of Leaves, for example, is a book I want to give one more earnest attempt at reading at length before I part with it. I can appreciate what it’s doing but it doesn’t resonate with me in any meaningful way. If I finished reading it, I would gain the perspective of having read it, but is that a perspective that’s valuable to me? In previous years, I might have felt guilty for saying that early. If I stop reading this book in 2021, that won’t prevent me from reading it in, say, 2028, even if I donate the copy of the book I own. Even if I read through it, and hated it, I could still re-read it.
The problem is when one piece of literature distracts you from the whole of literature.
If reading House of Leaves is such a burden that I don’t read, well, I need to get rid of it, so I read other things.
2021 Reading Goal: read more often.
|Sources: My personal experiences.|
|Inspirations: Writing year-end essays about what I’ve learned throughout 2020 on various media topics. For those interested, I completed 8 [eight] novels or novellas in 2020: Art Of War, 03-28-20. Call of Cthulhu, 07-19-20. Dagon, 07-19-20. Heal Your Headache, 02-17-20. Importance Of Being Earnest, 06-20-20. Picture Of Dorian Gray, 07-09-20. Promoting Your Self-Published Book, 02-26-20. Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strats, 01-10-20 — I dropped these readings: Family Medicine Encyclopedia, 1977. Gray’s Anatomy. Man’s Search for Meaning. One Hundred Years of Solitude. Screenplay: Found. Screenwriting.|
|Related: Other Media Meandry essays.|
|Picture: Using the template since nothing here is visually striking to me.|
|Written On: 2020 December 22 [11:38am to 12:03pm]|
|Last Edited: 2020 December 22 [First draft; final draft for the Internet.]|