Once upon a time

Books have always been my first love. Which I guess is implied by “first.” I’d say that I used to stay up late hidden under the covers, flashlight in hand, reading tattered copies of Wuthering Heights, but I’d be lying. In truth, I got the whole book thing from my mom, and so I experienced a worry-free adolescence of late-night reading, school bus reading, recess reading, weekend reading, outside reading …you get the idea.

Somewhere along the way, between movies and friends and the Internet (oh God, the Internet); between cell phones and Twitter and other various shiny objects, books got lost. This isn’t to say I don’t readโ€”my credit card statement, with more than a few Barnes & Noble charges, suggests otherwiseโ€”but I haven’t been giving literature its proper dues for awhile now.

And then there’s television. Oh sweet television, my mistress. I was always big on TV; I remember watching The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air with what can only be described as reverence. But appointment viewing, having to actually be in my house, in front of the TV, when a show aired, was the figurative wall between television for pleasure and television as addiction. Now, armed with a DVR and well-worn remote, I can watch pretty much whatever I want, whenever I want. And it’s been no small surprise to discover how much I really want to watch.

Sometime last year, after a lifetime of reading just one, maybe two books at a time, I started upping the ante, digging in to three, four or five at once. At first I told myself it was genre-based, one nonfiction book for every fiction book; one science title, one novel, one biography. And so on. Books began to follow the TV trajectoryโ€”try to make time for everything, by which I mean try to make time right now. Consequently I stopped finishing booksโ€”at last count, I had upwards of a dozen half- or two-thirds-finished books scattered around my apartment (that’s also a lie; they’re in very neat stacks). I have Packing for Mars, a nonfiction title by my absolute favorite science writer that a year ago I would have devoured in a week. It’s been more than a month and I’m on pg. 165. Then there’s I Drink for a Reason, the David Cross debut that’s easy to put down because it’s made up of small essays. I have The Northern Clemency, one of those 600-page multi-generational family deals, that I bought six months ago, started reading three months ago and can’t seem to finish. There’s Infinite Jest, the David Foster Wallace opus that I feel too ashamed to continue reading without giving it my full attention; Capote’s In Cold Blood and Other Voices, Other Rooms, both started for book clubs I didn’t end up attending; and The American Way of Death, which I have been attempting to get around to finishing for no less than two years.

So clearly I need some focus. Hence my mission, which I will document here for myself, plus probably about three other readers, will be to finish one book each week, Sunday to Saturday, cover to cover. There was a time when I wouldn’t have considered that a challengeโ€”you may yourself be scoffing nowโ€”but the schizophrenic piles in my apartment suggest only structure stands a chance of breaking my poor reading habits.

So what’s there to write about? To be honest, I’m not entirely sure. I’ll tell you what I’m reading, and whether it’s any good (note the grotesque and absolutely perfect rating system I’ve created), and perhaps impart some of the disproportionate excitement I feel when a favorite author releases a new title. Otherwise, the sky’s the limit. Or something like that.

Okay, so I’m putting down the remote. Here goes.