An aspect of visiting a friend’s office that I have always enjoyed is getting a tour of their bookshelf. Or while having dinner at a their house and the topic turns towards reading, them showing me around their personal book collection.
It shows you a little glimpse of their world; where the food for their thoughts might have come from, what they enjoy in both a professional and a personal setting, and what material they have resonated with—including those books initially read because of a disagreement with the premise.
“I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten;
even so, they have made me.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
Moving to digital mediums has made this social process harder, it is no longer easy to have a physical bookshelf filled to the brim, or share a copy of your favourite novel with a friend. Attempts—some would argue successful ones—have been made to create this type of communities for readers. Platforms like Goodreads are the go-to sites to update your read history and share your latest opinions. And while I appreciate the metadata all their entries contain, my use for this type of sites has always been simple; keep track of my previously read books, and maybe give it a rating. My friends are not in these platforms, so the social features are not useful to me, and the site’s recommendations are much more miss than hit.
After not updating my Goodreads account for a little over 5 months, I decided to keep track of those things in both my digital library and this page. For obvious reasons it is not possible to share my digital library publicly, but I can keep a list of the books I have read throughout the year in here.
I would classify my reading patterns as cycles. There are cycles where I only have one active book, usually a fantasy novel, which I slowly read. And those in which I get immersed in a topic, or series, and need the next entry.
Occasionally, I vehemently read the first chapters, only to lose interest in later developments.
In non-fiction, this often happens because countless authors express the core concept of the book in the first chapters, while using later parts to reinforce the idea through different examples and lenses. Some authors do this masterfully, allowing the reader to make their own connections, while others end up repeating the same thing for another 300 pages.
As for fiction, it is harder to pinpoint a cause, but I stop whenever my feelings towards the story stop. It has nothing to do with length, some books keep making me experience the journey thousands of pages in, while others lose their touch in just a few hundred. And it has nothing to do with quality, as I have dropped critically acclaimed novels—which I might later enjoy—and finished books at which I would raise an eyebrow later on.
I could only explain it as the right story at the right time.