Monday, January 9, 2012

Things to take pride in

I don't like to do end-of-the-year posts, but I do have some quick comments about my "official" 2011 reading year (even if I still think that it's a weird way to measure reading). Mostly, that I'm feeling fairly relaxed and calm about the way I read and the conclusions I've been reaching about literature. It's not just a numbers things, but more in terms of diversity. After years of feeling that I'm not reading right, along comes a year in which I read what I want, how I want, and without feeling like I owe anyone anything.

For starters, I've continued my trend of reading more books in Hebrew. Though a native speaker, reading in Hebrew has always been significantly harder (and slower) for me. Three years ago, I read only two books in Hebrew. This year, I read 19 books in Hebrew. Overall, only 58% of the books I read were originally in English: taking into account the fact that I read more science fiction and fantasy this year (genres almost exclusively dominated by English language books), this is a pleasantly surprising number. The remaining 42% is spread out over 19 other languages. Once books in Hebrew are taken into account, this means 35% of the books I read were in translation - not a huge statistic, but not an embarrassing one either.

This pleases me. I know it shouldn't - I know there's no reason it should - but something about the fact that I read books translated from languages I'd never read before makes me quite happy. It makes me feel as though I'm finally doing what I've always sought to do: broaden my horizons, learn about other cultures, step outside my "comfort" zone, and read what interests me. But I know that pushing myself further will ruin everything I've achieved until now. The fact that I read so much science fiction this year was a joy. The fact that I let myself read some sillier young adult books this year made it more relaxed. The fact that I didn't spend all year long counting and measuring what books I was reading meant that I was reading only for pleasure, never once telling myself that I have to read something specific.

I know it won't be easy to continue with this type of reading. Even though it's far more rewarding, I sometimes still fall back on the "reading is a race" mentality. Even this week, I found myself thinking that I was doing something wrong by not finishing a book I'd started last week and doing other things instead of reading. It's a gradual process, but at least it's happening. And I'm gaining so much more from reading this way.


  1. The whole "quantifying the number of books you read" thing is weird for me, too.

    I'm really jealous that you know another language well enough to read in it. When I was in college, I studied translation, and since then, it's really irked me, the thought of all that I am missing when I read a book in translation. Very cool that you can get all the nuances!

  2. BRAVO for reading in Hebrew. I too can read in another language but NEVER read anyting in that language. Do you choose a book that was originally published in Hebrew?

  3. Interesting. Especially about translations.

    I guess, as I started to read in a very small language, I feel like I filled my quota of translated books already as a child and now I need to not to sweat it (but I am fascinated and will look up my own list of books read in 2011 from this point of view now.

    I may have missed it, but did you list these 19 languages somewhere also?

  4. Wonderful to be able to read in other languages... I do agree that languages have their own concepts and nuances that don't exactly translate. (I have some German, enough to sort of read in, but not enough to fully appreciate.) Curious to know what you're reading! (I read a Meir Shalev book this year translated into English from the Hebrew, and LOVED it, but I'm hard pressed to think of any other recent read originally written in Hebrew).


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