In spite of the fact (or because of the fact?) that the semester has begun and I have less time for reading, and am therefore trying to keep the number of books I’m currently reading down to a minimum, I have felt a longing lately to start ridiculously long reading projects. For example, I’ve got The Oxford Book of Essays (edited by John Gross) that I’m tempted to begin reading in, and it’s a long book in itself, but I’d also like to read not just individual essays in the collection, but books by the authors I like along the way. I’d make it a big, long study in the essay. Doesn’t that sound like fun? And something that would take forever?
Or I could brush up on the history of philosophy as I’ve been thinking about for a while, except this time, study the authors in more depth rather than rushing through them as one must in a year-long course. Or could start reading novels in German again, because surely after a while I’d remember the vocabulary I once knew and reading them would get faster and be lots of fun? Or I could take this big fat anthology of 18C literature I’ve got and, maybe not read through it exactly, but do a study of the authors I don’t know very well?
I’m often torn between wanting to read systematically, and wanting to read at whim. Or I can put it this way — I’m torn between wanting to be an expert in one or two (or three or four) areas, and wanting to read a little bit of everything.
And the thing is, I’m not so terribly good at taking on long reading projects (Proust excepted, I suppose, but there I have the satisfaction of finishing a volume now and then). I get frustrated when I don’t finish books in a month or two, at the longest. Perhaps I need a “long-term reads” or “ongoing projects” category such as Danielle has; perhaps then I’d give myself permission to take my time. This is just one of the ways I’m sometimes at war with myself …