Emerging from In-Between 2021

Transitions are hard. Even when you feel like you’re done with where you are, and you’re looking forward to the next place you’re going to be, it’s hard to leave the cozy familiar. That’s what these intro and exit posts are for: they help me close out one thing, feel truly finished, before starting another.

In contrast to last year’s In-Between Reading during which I blogged through 29 books, or even the year before when it was 22 books, this year was less productive in terms of numbers: 18 books. I didn’t complete my list from the Intro post; I saw those thick volumes of Heinlein and Wouk, and decided this wasn’t the year for them. And I still took a long time reading, mostly, shorter books.

Part of that was unavoidable. I decided to re-do a couple of heavy-duty science moocs, entering them into Cerego as I did, and that took enormous amounts of time. It was, however, greatly beneficial, so no regrets. I also just had trouble getting down to brass tacks on everything, including reading.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed this year of Re-Reading. I got re-aquainted with a couple of classics I hadn’t read since high school or college (Pride and Prejudice, The Great Gatsby). I read about the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in the middle of our current pandemic, and noted the differences and, alarmingly, the similarities. And I found a (perhaps invented) link to Kierkegaard in a favorite pop novel I hadn’t read in over a decade.

My luck with recent releases was mixed. I loved the Saunders take on Russian short stories, and I think I learned something about keeping expectations in mind while reading: what is the author setting up? Why would they challenge that expectation? The new short story collections were delights, but the novels, not so much. They weren’t bad, by any means, but I was disappointed. Maybe the hype had me expecting more. In the past, I’ve rarely read new releases, because of the hype factor; I think I’ll stick with that policy from now on.

I did much better on older novels and story collections. The hands-down winner of this In-Between session was Helen DeWitt’s The Last Samurai; runner up is Daniel Kehlmann’s Measuring the World. I’ve always said I love a book that teaches me something, and these both did.

And now its time to focus on short stories again. I read differently when I’m doing one story at a time, as opposed to a collection or a novel. It’s time to make that transition. And I’ll start putting aside potential reads for next year’s In-Between.

2 responses to “Emerging from In-Between 2021

  1. I was just thinking this morning about how little I read in a year in terms of quantity. 20 books would be the most I’ve read in a year since college. A lot of that has to do with the fact I read a lot of books in Korean, and those take me a very long time to read. But even without that consideration, I don’t read quickly or voluminously. I tend to need some time while reading and after reading to reflect, including walking around considering what I’ve just read by talking to myself, trying out the ideas in the book. It leads me to some interesting meditations, but it’s not great for crossing over a lot of entries on a list.

    • Yeah, I’ve never been big on counting books (obviously, since i spend 2+ months on BASS and another 4 months on Pushcart). I like to look things up when I encounter them in a book, go back and read a section that’s referred to later on, that sort of thing. This whole trend of “set a reading goal” as the number of books you want to read is great for booksellers sponsoring Goodreads, but doesn’t help readers.
      But I was unusually slothful this time around. I did have a lot of other things to do – moocs, Duolingo – maybe my brain just needed the down time.

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