Yesterday, poet and editor Natalie Eilbert announced a shift in the way that she’d be reacting to the books she’ll be reading in 2015. “From here on out, I promise to remark upon each and every book I’m reading,” she wrote. “One paragraph. Twenty. We can afford to be better to each other, roll the stone from the sepulchral mouth each of us is driven deeper into by tedium.” It’s an impressive vow, and it’s one that’s already led to an insightful piece on Feng Sun Chen’s The 8th House. And it’s left me thinking about keeping logs of one’s reading–maybe it’s the arrival of the new year, but it seems as though there’s an abundance of smart writers going all in on meditations of the entirety of what they read for the year.
Mairead Case’s reading diary, which runs monthly at Bookslut, has been a go-to for me for a while now in terms of the breadth of coverage and the observations about politics, society, and culture that can be found there. Sarah McCarry recently logged the books she took in while traveling; there, you’ll find everything from notes on history to thoughts on experimental fiction. And both Roxane Gay and Blake Butler structured their looks back at 2014 in terms of the entirety of the books they read in a given year.
There’s something impressive about this all-encompassing approach. There are also, certainly, services that handle this; as someone who’s been active on Goodreads for seven years, I can definitely understand the appeal of that. But there seems to be some distance between the two approaches, even though the line can be a fine one at times. But if it means that more smart writers are advancing or starting conversations about interesting and sometimes overlooked books, that seems like a positive thing for everyone involved.