Wednesday, January 11, 2012

52 Books in 52 Weeks

Buying books would be a good thing if one could also buy the time to read them - Schopenhauer

It’s been a long time between posts, so before I get into the main bit, a small update: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card is officially a frontrunner for my favourite novel of all time; my combined present-haul from my December birthday and Christmas consisted mostly of books, so the TBR pile is taller than ever; and I’m moving to Melbourne and looking for a job, ideally in a bookshop. Since looking for a job in a bookshop involves visiting a lot of bookshops, the TBR pile has suffered even more; but if anyone who reads this has a lead on such a job, let me know!

I’m not really one for New Year’s resolutions, but when everyone else is talking about theirs my mind seems to sort of make them up on its own; or, I suppose more accurately, steals and/or modifies the ones I come across. This is pretty much what has happened this year, and since I’ve been getting quite annoyed with how little progress I’ve made on the TBR pile this year, I’ve stolen my mate Dale’s idea (although evidently a lot of other people are doing it too) and am attempting to read 52 books in 2012, an average of one per week.

I just finished Richard Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene today, and it was a very interesting read. In fact, assuming you buy the most recent printing of it (which has been updated since the original publication date) I think it may even become my go-to recommendation for someone wanting a book to learn about evolution. My previous champion, Dawkins’ The Ancestor’s Tale, is much easier to digest, but Selfish Gene has Dawkins’ trademark fluency as well, so it’s not by a huge margin. Ancestor’s Tale gives a very good account, but does so through illustrative examples, and the structure of tracing our steps back to the common ancestor of all life on Earth is a captivating way of presenting the information; but what it gains in storytelling it loses in detailed facts. Selfish Gene uses much more straightforward (albeit very pleasant and conversational) prose and gives much more detail, which means you’ll learn more but - depending on your constitution - might get bored more easily. It’s a tradeoff, I guess, but needless to say I would strongly recommend both of them to anyone with even a passing interest in the subject. Selfish Gene has certainly been very illuminating for me, and to consider things from a gene’s-eye perspective (which Ancestor’s Tale, it must be noted, doesn’t really emphasise very strongly) has made me think about things much differently…which is the best result you can possibly get from a book, really.

In any case, since I just finished it today - the 11th - I’m already 4 days, or almost 60%, over budget. My odds of getting the full 52 books done are, as I knew from day one, slim (although if these first days, and the last 5 years, are any indication, my likelihood of success is directly proportional to the amount of time I spend on/waiting for public transport. The car is my ruination; Melbourne will hopefully help in this respect). But the point is not so much to succeed in hitting that target as it is to make me more conscious of precisely how much time I spend reading, and how quickly I get through books. If it makes me set aside more reading time, and if I can take a sizeable chunk out of my TBR pile, I’ll consider it a success - especially since my entire TBR pile is currently only 34 books tall! I’d need to buy more books to even have a chance of doing it, and that would be such a darn shame.

I don’t know if I’ll be bothered reviewing every single book I read, but I will Tweet about them under the hashtag #52books and I always participate in #FridayReads anyway. Follow me at @Simbera if you’re interested - and join in, if you can!


  1. I did this last year as well!! I only made it through about 40 on my list, however I partially blame the big move to Europe as it cut into the last few months of reading time. My only advice, let your list be flexible. I put a solid few hours into making my 52 books list at the first of the year, and by June I had made some serious changes. Can't wait to see some reviews come out of this!

    1. Cheers! I've thrown together a bit of a list but I'm leaving the order pretty open, and like I said - I don't have enough to finish the year so if I buy new books and want to read them straight away (which, let's face it, is pretty likely) there's nothing stopping me!