Reading Journal (12 Aug): You Know You Have Been Reading Too Much When…

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…you sit down to dinner with your 22-month old and he says “Book? Book?” and points to a book on the near-by shelf.

I guess I have had my nose in a book a lot lately. (In my defense, my husband has been out of town, my son takes forever to eat, and I don’t usually read during dinner, just during breakfast and lunch…)

How do you know you have been reading too much? Or is there such a thing?

This past weekend was a wake-up call to slow down my reading once again. I didn’t read a book for two days! I enjoyed my reading-filled July (with a  record number of pages!), but I suspect the rest of August will find me reading less compulsively, reading more classics, and trying to be less calendar-driven (i.e., challenge-driven). I’m really missing the spontaneity of reading whatever classic is calling to me.

I say all that, but I’ve apparently already finished six books this month. When did that happen?

Finished Reading

See my notes by each book below.

  • The Arabian Nights II, translated by Husain Haddawy (270 pages; fiction). FINISHED! This volume had four stories; they were okay, but not spectacular. Now I know why the other volume’s translation is considered “best.”
  • Castle Waiting by Linda Medley (455 page; fiction/graphic novel). FINISHED! This was fun. Don’t let the 400+ pages scare you; it’s a fairly fast read.

My Books

  • The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins ( audiobook, on 32 of 38 segments, 25.5 hours total; fiction) My current audiobook; downloaded via I will certainly finish in the coming week. It’s lots of fun, and I can’t believe I’ve been so patient with the audiobook; I’m dying to see how it ends.
  • The Stories of John Cheever (20 of 61 stories, 820 pages total; fiction/short stories). Part of my Pulitzer Challenge. I made no progress this week; my goal is five to ten stories a week.
  • The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne (120 read of 180 pages; children’s fiction). I’m reading this aloud to my son, a little bit every day.
  • The [Barnes and Noble] Poetry Library: John Donne (42 of 98 pages; poetry). My current poet. No progress this week, despite the fact that I got some analysis to help me (see new loot, below). I should make progress this week.
  • Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathon Swift (90 read of 355 pages; fiction). For My Children’s Literature Project. I finished part one (of four), and I’m aiming to finish part two this week.
  • Beloved by Toni Morrison (9 read of 275 pages; fiction). For the Beowulf on the Beach Challenge. I started this, but I didn’t have the chance to sit down with it. Because this is one of my favorites, I’m looking forward to really reading it, so I’m just waiting for the chance.

Old Library Loot

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Eva and Marg that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library.

  • The Chicago School of Architecture: A History of Commercial and Public Building in the Chicago Area, 1875-1925 by Carl W. Condit (63 read of 220 pages; nonfiction). There is something so fascinating about buildings and how and why they are built as they are. This is a book that (1) requires concentration and (2) is not for late night reading. When I’m fully awake and able to concentration on it, I enjoy it.
  • An Edge in the Kitchen by Chad Ward (80 read of 210 pages; nonfiction/reference). For The Spice of Life Challenge. I am enjoying it, just going slowly, about 10 pages a day when I can. If only I had “new kitchen knives” in the budget this month!

New Library Loot

I got a few new books this week.

  • Bloom’s Major Poets: John Donne (110 pages; nonfiction/critical analysis). This is to help me make sense of Donne’s poetry.
  • The Soul of Wit: A Study of John Donne by Murray Roston (220 pages; nonfiction/critical analysis). This is also to help me make sense of Donne’s poetry; I’m judging a book by its cover this week, and this book is ugly, smelly, and looks densely boring. I’ll try to give it a chance despite that.
  • The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon (trans. Ivan Morris) (265 pages, plus 140 pages end matter; fiction). I’ve decided to read this for The Japanese Literature Challenge. I know, I’m crazy to join yet another challenge. But this challenge is to read one book! And Shonagon sounds wonderful.
  • 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff (95 pages; nonfiction). For the Take a Chance Challenge, chance number 10 book/movie comparison.
  • The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold (11 hours audiobook; fiction). For the Take a Chance Challenge, chance number 1, random book selection. My requirements: fiction audiobook section, second aisle, third column form the right, third shelf down, tenth book in from right. I gave my self the option of tenth book in from the left too, so I guess I cheated. I’d actually heard of this particular one, so I chose it over the tenth book from the left.

Fantastic Finds

I really would love to read all of these books, but it’s a bit unrealistic. Since I only finished two books, adding 17 to the list is a bit excessive. How do you control your TBR additions?

  • Maw Books is giving away 14 Cows for America, which I added to my TBR last week.
  • Becca at Bookstack ponders the secret club of reading. How do children of non-readers get in it?
  • Jenni at Banquet of Books ponders the need for reading partners: someone who will engage with you in a dialog about books. Thanks to all of you for being that for me! I love to discuss books.


  • Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. Heather at Age 30+ says this is one of the best books ever. And she had put off reading it much as I have.
  • Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Nymeth at Things Mean A Lot says this is very good. I still haven’t read any Adichie!
  • Crossed Wires by Rosy Thornton. Amanda at the Zen Leaf was going to give away this Austen-esque modern romance but couldn’t part with it, she liked it so much!
  • The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James. Teresa at Shelf Love says “There’s a reason some books are classics. They address questions that won’t go away as long as there are people on the planet.” That is, I think, a perfect way of describing why I like to read classics.
  • Mudbound by Hilary Jordan. Softdrink at Fizzythoughts “flat out loved this book” which explores racism in the segregated south.
  • Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. I got this at a discount table a year ago but I haven’t read this. Books and Cooks says she liked it, and was surprised that many in her book group did too.
  • Eclogues by Virgil. I didn’t know Virgil wrote poetry until I read the review by Jason Gignac at 5-Squared.
  • After the Fire, A Still Small Voice by Evie Wyld. Bluestalking says this is as gorgeous as prose gets: “You cannot come away from it unmoved.” I’m intrigued.
  • Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones. 3000 Books says “Mister Pip is not just about a book; it is about all books, and all that books can be.”
  • Apologies to an Apple by Maya Ganesan. Jason Gignac at 5-Squared really likes these poems, and I’m intrigued, since they’re written by an 11-year-old.
  • Speak by Laurie Halsie Anderson. Christopher at 50 Books Project talks about how this YA novel about rape is current high school reading.


  • Milk: The Surprising Story of Milk Through the Ages by Anne Mendelson. Emily at Evening All Afternoon shares my love of milk and dairy products, so she really enjoyed this book. Plus, it would be perfect for my Spice of Life Challenge.
  • Inventing English by Seth Lerer. Emily at Evening All Afternoon has some great thoughts about this book, which is all about the evolving face of English through history.
  • Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz. Meagan at 50 Books Project says this is a travelogue through the south to learn about the War of Northern Aggression. Being from the north, I’ve never learned about the Civil War from the Southern perspective. Maybe this funny book would do that?
  • Iran Awakening by Shirin Abadi. Nymeth at things mean a lot read this to get a better grip on the current Iran situation. I’m interested for similar reasons.
  • The Well-Educated Mind by Susan Wise-Bauer. Jenni at Banquet of Books quoted from this; I want to read it now!
  • The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. Teresa at Shelf Love says that she liked rereading Joan Didion’s memoir of the year after her husband died; she says “Although death, grief, and illness are the focus of the book, Didion’s narrative also includes excursuses into the writing life that she and Dunne shared.” It sounds depressing but powerful.
Reviewed on August 12, 2009

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

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  1. Thanks for the shout-outs. I’ve had a run of very good reads lately. When that happens, I only want to read more.

    I have no secret for taming the TBR list. I’ve just stopped worrying about it and see it more as a list of books I don’t want to forget about, rather than a list of books I intend to read.

    The physical TBR pile is more of a worry. I can’t even hold myself to the policy of not aquirining any more new books before reading one of my unread books. Limited bookshelf space helps, but I’m pretty good at finding new nooks for book stacking.

  2. There is no such thing as too much reading! Mostly because I never am satisfied with the time I have to read — I always want more!

    I don’t even pretend to have control over my TBR list. According to my tags on LibraryThing, there are 959 books, right now, on my TBR shelves. Those are books physically in my possession that I plan to read. That doesn’t include wish list books. Even if I read 100 a year, I have close to a 10 years’ supply without buying another book.

    In my head, I always figured that if I didn’t exceed 1,000 TBR books, I could catch up. But now that I realize how close I am to that number, I’m already bargaining with myself.

    Which brings me full circle to how I really need more time to read . . .

  3. I love that “book” is a word he knows!!! lol My eldest used to cry whenever we went into a bookstore. My other two like going to the library… I don’t think there is ever ‘reading too much’! six books done already – I envy that! That’s usually what I get done in a month.

    As for my TBR additions – good question, because it’s several shelves of books to read! plus various stacks elsewhere.

  4. Amanda, I know, right? The book blogger’s plight!

    Lezlie, I’d say I’m jealous, but I’m not because I love being a mom!

    Teresa, “a list of books I don’t want to forget about” That’s a good way to put it. I am realizing more every day that I have to choose which of the thousands and millons of book published I”m going to read THIS WEEK. It’s hard to choose. And thanks for all the great posts/recommendations.

    I am a big fan of libraries, so I don’t buy many/any books. In fact, my limited budget (i.e., $0 for books every month) is a great way of limiting that tendency!

    Kathy, note that I don’t normally read during dinner. Just breakfast and lunch. My son is a slow eater sometimes and he likes to play with his food! When I was a kid there was a “no books at the table” policy too. Too bad. Think of all I could have gotten through!

    Rose City Reader, Wow, that’s a lot of physical books to be read! Mine are all on the library shelves, so I don’t have them staring at me all the time.

    Sigh. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to stop the real world and just sit and read every once in a while. Or a lot of the while?

    Susan, oh yes, and he was signing “book” long before he could say it! He likes to sit and “read” books aloud to himself, pointing at the pictures and babbling. Most books are about three pages long that way 🙂

    Some of my books are children’s books. I don’t count picture books in my monthly totals, but children’s books are pretty quick reads!

  5. I’m glad you joined the JLC3~and how you have time to read for so many challenges with a 22 month old is beyond me! I hope he takes lots of naps, and mine did eighteen years ago. 😉
    I’m adding you to the Review Site now, where you’ll find all the participants and links to their reviews.

  6. Thank you for the mention, Rebecca!

    Honestly, I think an out of control TBR list is healthy, in spite of the fact that it frustrates the heck out of those of us who are goal-oriented. And I’m impressed with all of you who have TBR shelves. My TBR books are so numerous I have to just mix them in with all the other books in my library. But I like it that way, it means that when I look at my bookcases I have the comfort of seeing old friends, and the excitement of seeing friends waiting to be made.

    I hear you about reading at the dinner table, though. I try not to do it, but there have been times when I’m casting so many longing glances at my book-in-progress that my husband rolls his eyes and says “Oh just go ahead and read!” My 9 y/o has no such social grace, she reads at the table unapologetically, and my sympathies are too strong to tell her not to!

    Thanks for another excellent post!

  7. Ooh, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on Milk and Inventing English! I get a very particular feeling when I’m over-reading, and to my credit I’m getting better at recognizing it when it happens. I stop enjoying the process so much, and become kind of obsessive about starting and finishing books, rather than being carried along by the journey. Whenever I get this feeling I know I should slow right down and go take a walk or spend some time with friends!

  8. claire, isn’t that fun?!

    Paula, there’s something about owning a book, huh.

    Bellezza, Well, I’m glad this challenge is one book! I wanted to read The Pillow Book anyway.

    You’ll see I’m not so great about getting challenges “finished.” But I’m pretty good at joining them!!

    Jenni, My TBR books is a list I have on my computer. Thousands. I don’t limit myself to books I own!

    My husband has no qualms at working on his computer at the table if he has pressing matters, so I don’t feel too guilty. But usually if he’s in town, dinner is a no book, no work time!

    Emily, Inventing English sounds the most interesting of those too. I’ll have to get to it *some day*.

    Yes, I completely understand the “obsessive’ feeling. I try to step back every now and then. That’s why it was so odd when my son is trying to remind me to read. I realized July was a bit too much…

  9. CONTROL my tbr pile? Yeah, gave that up a long time ago. Actually, I don’t buy tons and tons of books, I get a lot more from the library so it doesn’t stack up, but still, the wishlist is OUT of CONTROL.

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