Booking Through Thursday: Resolutions (and other questions)

In the last episode of Thursday questioning, we discussed what our bookshelves say about us. It made for some fun answers:
  • Favorite expression of personal taste, from MissPhotographerB: "people would think I am probably a teenage girl who is a bit of a Sci-Fi nerd that is HEAVILY into photography and loves Mountain Gorillas."
  • Favorite personal philosophy, from Masha: "that I appreciate books for the entirety of the book - it's beauty, content, presentation."
  • Favorite general point, from Sarah: "My books are also very "loved" but I think a bookshelf full of perfect, unread books is just wrong."
Thanks, all of you, for participating!

After some consideration, I've decided to try participating in Booking Through Thursday, a weekly meme devoted to the asking and answering of book-related questions. Good news for all of you: You can either join Booking Through Thursday with your own blog, or answer the questions in the comments. I hope you do one or the other! Answering the questions myself is only half the fun.

This week's question was simply: Any New Year’s reading resolutions? Which, as it turns out, I do have a couple—sort of. But I have two other questions for you as well, posted by my friend Scott Fleischman on Twitter:

What is it that makes something worth reading multiple times? How would one go about writing such a work?

My resolutions:
  • Read enough books to keep Currently Reading going every week.
  • Finish Bulfinch and get hold of a Burckhardt text or two.
  • Keep re-reading—don't lose that joy entirely to reading new works or the internet.
As for Scott's questions, I'll join you in the comments. Those deserve some discussion, if we can get it.

So: Do you have any resolutions regarding reading this year? What makes a book re-readable to you? What do you think it takes to write something like that?


  1. To kick things off, here are my thoughts:

    What is it that makes something worth reading multiple times?

    To a certain extent, I think this differs for everybody. But for me at least, a book needs to do two things: 1) satisfy some heart-level need or desire, and 2) keep me thinking about it after I've laid it down.

    How would one go about writing such a work?

    Honestly, I think the best way to do this is to re-read the works that have that power for you, read them until they're part of you and you have them half-memorized. Then study them. Read about what makes them work as literature. Read why other people liked them.

    And practice your own craft of writing, too. There's no substitute for practice. Write thousands of pages, work with your instincts to let your stories deal with questions and themes and emotions. Have your favorite pieces critiqued, revise them and get them critiqued again, and practice some more.

    Maybe I should have made a whole Monday blog-post out of this. :P

  2. I would say you're spot on in regard to your comments on rereading, Jenna.

    Regarding any resolutions I have for reading in this New Year, well, I'd like to finish reading all of Arthur Conan Doyle's Holmes stories. I'm probably halfway through. Of course, I'm also reading some Holmes pastiches.

    I'd also like to read more of Martin Luther & of the Church Fathers. I've got some L.E. Modesitt stories I'd like to get into. I'd like to reread the whole Potter series & also The Hobbit & The Lord of the Rings. There's several works by C.S. Lewis I'd like to get to as well as some old favorites by him. I want to read more G.K. Chesterton. And at least some Jane Austen.

  3. That is a good answer for rereading, I agree!
    I have only read one book twice and that is Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix. The Shadow Children Series is my favorite! I could read it over and over again.

    I think I would just like to read more! I don't read that much, but I love books. I want to see if I can read 50 books, maybe even 100. One year I counted and only read around 25 books. I can read a book in a day, so I could easily do it if I started!

    It probably takes time and patience and a person who can dive deep into it to write a good book. How would someone go about writing it? All you have to do is start, and keep going.

  4. I think Nabokov says it best: "There is only one school of literature - that of talent." A well-written book, one that goes beyond being a story and becomes art, is always worth reading again. I think the only way to write one is to have talent, experience, and the discipline to see properly.

    As for my reading resolutions: reread less (it's so easy to get caught up in a favourite author again), and complete the "poetics" exercise my sister recommended (a complete examination of what I read, why I read it, and why I react as I do to what I read, as well as an examination of how that reading forms me as a writer). Intense, but very worth it. My sister knows her stuff. :)

  5. George, I want to re-read the whole HP series again, too. Also, I should read more of the Holmes books. I loved Hound of the Baskervilles.

    Rachelynn, I've never read the Shadow Children series. I just put it on my to-read list. Yay, a recommendation... thanks!

    Masha, I agree with you and Nabokov. :) There's no art without talent, and no great art without experience and discipline.

    Also, I'm very curious about the poetics exercise. Is that something you can take online? It sounds fascinating.

  6. Ooh, the poetics is amazing! It's more self-directed, not something formulated. My husband writes songs, and he's able to use it in his process. Essentially it's directed journaling designed to force you to understand yourself and your writing. In it you examine books that have had a strong effect on you, what good they've produced in your vision and writing, what bad they've produced. What you like about the author's writing, what you dislike, or at least, what wouldn't work in your own. You do this with books, songs, paintings, anything that effects you (Rilke did something like in in his "diaries of a young poet" and also in his examination of Cezanne's paintings). At the same time you examine your own writing in the sameway: the good, the bad, your successes, your failures. You also write about your thoughts on writing and reading. Why? To what purpose? What are you producing? Is it making or creating? And on and on...the purpose is to develope, meaning you should continually be returning to your vision of writing, re-asking the questions and answering in a fuller, deeper, and more mature way.

    My sister "assigned" it to one of my brothers and it really helped him develope intellectual discipline, improved his writing, and encouraged him to read with more understanding, he swears by it and they both assigned it to my youngest brother, who's only just begun the whole process.

    I do hope you do it, I feel like it's the sort of exercise that anyone can benefit from, and it's a lovely excuse to absorb yourself in books you love.

  7. Oh, thanks, Masha! Hmm... this sounds like it might make an interesting series of blog posts. :D With all the writing about writing and reading I've done, I feel like I'm part way through that process already. Getting through the rest would be a delight... Maybe I'll suggest it to my writers' group as well.

    Thanks again--this is fantastic!


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