How Long Does It Take to Read Your Favorite Books? (Personal Creations)

For me, as for (probably) many others, approaching the finish line of any book is enough motivation to shift into a determined sprint and put the whole race behind me as quickly as possible.

Most of the time.

Tristram Shandy, however, is sitting at the edge of my desk, staring up at me with the mournful eyes of a motherless marmoset. I have exactly twelve pages left. And I will be leaving them for tomorrow.

You could call my struggle with Mr. Shandy a marathon, but only if it’s the kind of marathon in which I jogged halfheartedly for a bit, fell behind a row of six cancer survivors wearing assless chaps and platinum wigs (making any form of concentration impossible), wandered off the track and sat down on the sidelines for a while, drinking wine and harassing passers-by, walked the other twenty miles, came in dead last, and still called it a victory.

With so little left to read, you’d think—I’d think—I’d just want to get it over with at this point. You’d think I’d be ready to bask in the vague satisfaction of, if not a job well done, then a job technically completed.

But the five to ten pages I’ve been forcing myself to read every day for the last, oh, eternity, have been painful enough. Each word is like a wilting fern to the imagination, and each chapter is like a paper cut to the eye. I don’t know if all those Amazon reviewers were conspiring to play a prank on me when they called Tristram Shandy “hilarious,” or if I just didn’t get the joke. I’ll probably never know, and just have to live with that.

This is the primary reason I found Personal Creations’s infographic on the time it takes to read popular books a little bit amusing and a little bit presumptuous. Sure, if we sit down to read The Great Gatsby and never get up again until he’s The Dead Gatsby, and we happen to read exactly 300 words per minute, it might take 2.62 hours. But for all of us with lives that interrupt that sort of undertaking, this estimate feels like a taunt.

I will not be mocked by your infographic with its cutesy book scale, Personal Creations. I will not let you convince me that Gone With the Wind can be read in less than a day. I will take six months to read Tristram Shandy if I must, sentence by inane sentence, and then spend another six months on Lolita if that book is terrible too. WATCH ME. I’ll do it, so I will.

Oh, and Tristram: I’m coming for you tomorrow. And I will end you, literally. I admire your tenacity, but you haven’t defeated me yet. Let’s do this now so I can go on vacation with Bridget Jones—a book that is actually hilarious.

Beautiful Book Dedications (Book Riot)

Here’s a collection of beautiful book dedications ranging from the romantic to the inspiring to the thought-provoking. Check the comments section for more. I may have swooned slightly over this one:

Dear Pat,

You came upon me carving some kind of little figure out of wood and you said, “Why don’t you make something for me?”
I asked you what you wanted, and you said, “A box.”
“What for?”
“To put things in.”
“What kind of things?”
“Whatever you have,” you said.
Well, here’s your box. Nearly everything I have is in it, and it is not full. Pain and excitement are in it, and feeling good or bad and evil thoughts and good thoughts—the pleasure of design and some despair and the indescribable joy of creation.
And on top of these are all the gratitude and love I have for you.
And still the box is not full.


…right up until I noticed that “John” was “John Steinbeck,” and the book was East of Eden. I will NOT let my feelings be manufactured by Steinbeck. I feel nothing. NOTHING.

Mark Twain Teaser

At the end of May, I used a free weekend (what am I saying, I’m free every weekend) as an excuse to take the Peter Pan bus up to Hartford, Connecticut, and visit the Mark Twain House & Museum.

As a Twain enthusiast and, finally, houseguest, I volunteered to write up a gushing Twain profile for Headstuff’s new literary series. But until then, here’s a preview of the delights in store—in the form of, obviously, fun facts:

  • He lived right next door to Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of the abolitionist novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin. She was much more famous than him in the 19th century. (I’ll write more about her another time—I visited her house, too!)
  • He worked as a typesetter, a riverboat pilot, and a miner before settling down to write books.
  • He proposed to his eventual wife, Olivia Langdon, in 1868. A coal heiress far, far wealthier than Twain, she (and her family) took some convincing.
  • He was a prolific smoker, often finishing off 25-40 cigars per day.
  • He was anti-imperialist, anti-slavery, critical of organized religion, and an active supporter of women’s suffrage—to name just a few of his convictions.
  • He had a lifelong obsession with Joan of Arc, going on to write a book about her in 1896.

Learning about him has spurred me on to finish The 100 Greatest Books Challenge, just so I can fill my TBR pile with his writing. I think I’ll start with The Innocents Abroad—a travel narrative mocking his fellow tourists. Or maybe I’ll just squeeze that into my next free weekend (a.k.a. this weekend).



Quote of the Week

“What would they do to me,” he asked in confidential tones, “if I refused to fly?”
“We’d probably shoot you,” ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen replied.
“We?” Yossarian cried in surprise. “What do you mean, we? Since when are you on their side?”
“If you’re going to be shot, whose side do you expect me to be on?” ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen retorted.

-Joseph Heller, Catch-22

Book Titles Rewritten to Get More Clicks (The Millions)

Have fun with this list of book titles rewritten to increase click rates—or, as the author puts it, “whorishly titled” to attract attention. It’s also a kind of mini-quiz (if you don’t enjoy a challenge, that is).

I doubt any of these titles will inspire new readers, but they are certainly a laugh for old fans of Austen, Dickens, Nabokov, and more. But who knows? Here’s One Weird Trick to Get Out of Paying Your Rent Forever is intriguing…

#77 Women in Love, D. H. Lawrence

This blog post is playing mean tricks on me and refusing to stick around. Hopefully this will work. Happy reading!

The 100 Greatest Books Challenge

Photo by Jan Kameníček Photo by Jan Kameníček

If only man was swept off the face of the earth, creation would go on so marvellously, with a new start, non-human. Man is one of the mistakes of creation—like the ichthyosauri.

OUCH. D. H. Lawrence holds back his criticism of neither man nor dinosaur in Women in Love, so I’m not going to bother with reverence either. Lawrence liked ichthyosauri about as much as I liked his book.

We’ll start with the protagonists. Lawrence isn’t the effusive type, so naturally his characters have little to brag about. Rupert Birkin is described as pale and sickly, while Gerald Crich wears a “sharp impersonal face” and carries himself with “mechanical relentlessness.” Gudrun is said to be “beautiful, passive, soft-skinned, soft-limbed” with a confidence that contrasts with her sister Ursula’s “sensitive expectancy,” but both apparently have the “remote, virgin look of modern girls”… whatever the hell that means. Minor characters include assorted…

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