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I thought I'd do this entry because Hylomorphist asked a question in a recent entry that other people have also been curious about, and I get other questions via email and so on.

Hylomorphist's question: N.B. It would be interesting to know by the end of your reading-reviewing year how many times you selected the book according to the expected time it would take to get through it.

My answer: I'll have to look back over the list to give an actual number or percentage, but yes, I do sometimes plan based on expected reading time, only not in a way that I think would usually be obvious.

For instance, the two Jill Paton Walshes I read because Sovay liked them so much and recommended them so highly; I read both in one day because they were short enough to make me feel guilty about how short they are. I'd have read them regardless of length.

But I save graphic novels for tired days, because they take less than half the time per page, and that is absolutely consistent, and I don't think it's noticeable.

I'm not as good at estimating reading time as I'd like to be, because it doesn't have much to do with length, really. Probably the shortest thing I've read in the past month, besides the Paton Walshes, was the Boethius of Dacia, which took forever because it is abstruse and technical. Whereas A Game of Cages, from two days ago, which is about 350 pp., was a nice relaxing hour and a half. The problem is that some of this is predictable and some not-- I mean, I took Giovanni Pico della Mirandola's essay on the dignity of man to a con because I knew it would be short, interesting, and in a rhetorical style I can read quickly, and that worked; but I read Michelle Cliff's novel No Telephone to Heaven on a tired day because it was 150 pp.. It turned out to be one of those books that demands the best of your entire brain, and it took the whole night, and it was lovely but I paid for it the rest of the week.

I also make allowances when I can for books that I know will take a while. Anything over about 600 pp. gets a day when I don't have any appointments or anything planned, and have something I expect to be easy to read for the day after. I am currently agonizing about how to handle Patrick Rothfuss's The Wise Man's Fear, because I desperately want to read it, but The Name of the Wind was about 700 pp. and took about six hours, which was manageable but means he is a fairly dense writer and takes me actual processing time per page. The Wise Man's Fear is 1500 pp. and requires a day in which I would basically get up early in the morning, hypercaffeinate, read for a ridiculous amount of time, and collapse-- my current estimate is ~15 hours, possibly longer. I am not sure it is really sane. But I want to know what happens, dammit! Aargh.

So far the record for denseness (length/time) is George R.R. Martin's Dying of the Light at 150 pp./8 hrs., which is because I do not think that way and might as well have been reading something written in a language I don't speak. Worth it though.

There are also a couple of writers I just haven't gone near this year because reading them takes up too much brain-space. Gene Wolfe, for instance-- this is the first year in several that I haven't reread the Book of the New Sun.

Mostly, though, I decide what to read based entirely on my mood when I get up in the morning. It works better that way, because it is difficult for me to grab myself by the scruff of the neck and make myself read something if I don't feel like it, and I would never be able to do this if I weren't religious about following my whims.

Via email from multiple people: Do you read things you don't blog about?

Oh my, yes. Right now I am a) in terrible health, b) unemployed (partly due to a)), c) living in a town where I don't know many people I don't live with, and d) gearing up for an imminent cross-country move. I'm between knitting projects due to materials access issues, and one can only watch so much anime; my fiction-writing brain decamped due to stress a couple of months ago. What else am I supposed to do with my time? I average a thousand pages a day. It's pretty evenly split between rereads, new reads I don't feel like blogging about, and multiple-volume manga. This is why I have eyestrain.

Significant rereads this year: all of Lois Lowry, Jim Butcher's Dresden Files (in process), the Doctor Doolittle books, Keith Robertson's Henry Reed books, large chunks of Georgette Heyer, large chunks of Zilpha Keatley Snyder, a lot of Gordon Korman, C.J. Cherryh's atevi books, the main thread of Steven Brust's Dragaera books, most of Heinlein's juveniles, Tamora Pierce, *sigh* most of Mercedes Lackey (I have been *really stressed*, okay?), plus the things I reread as a reflex action, meaning Diana Wynne Jones, Elizabeth Enright, C.S. Lewis, and Sylvia Townsend Warner. Some William Hope Hodgson.

Things I haven't felt like blogging about, mostly because of sitting down and reading them in giant chunks in like two-day stretches: the entirety of Eloisa James and Julia Quinn, the terrible yet hypnotic P.C. Cast vampire boarding school books, the surprisingly non-terrible six books Mercedes Lackey wrote with James Mallory (no, seriously, I was expecting those to be total shit and by book five they had attained reminding me of P.C. Hodgell and I'm as confused as you are), pretty much the entirety of John Ringo in an attempt to discover how the hell this gets published (conclusion: I have no goddamn idea, but it's like watching a traffic accident, including the nausea afterward and the feeling that you've been an unintentional voyeur in creepy and terrible ways).

Notable manga, including new reads, things I've been reading new volumes of as they come out, and things I've reread/caught up in: Berserk (reread/catchup), Hellsing (reread), Silver Diamond (reread/catchup), Saiunkoku Monogatari (as it comes out), Fullmetal Alchemist (as it comes out), Genkaku Picasso (as it came out), MeruPuri (reread), Little Butterfly (reread), Samurai Deeper Kyo (reread/finish), Vassalord (catchup, and has anyone relicensed this?), A Bride's Story (as it comes out, year's best manga), Ooku (as it comes out), Children of the Sea (as it comes out), Shin Petshop of Horrors (as it comes out), Maka-Maka (reread), probably the rest of Fumi Yoshinaga in English, Hourou Musuko (reread/catchup). TBR pile: Excel Saga (reread/catchup: new volume yay!), Bokurano, if I get around to it maybe reread Flame of Recca because I feel all nostalgic, Bunny Drop.

Question: Why don't you ever write about movies anymore?

I moved away from the place with the good artsy theatres and the good video stores (oh, Harvard Film Archive, I sometimes dream about you). Also I am very busy. Also you hear enough about my massive crush on Derek Jarman through the books of his I read. I will probably write more about movies next year.

Question: Why don't you ever write about anime anymore?

Have you seen the last couple of years of anime? We're at an average of .5 show/season I can tolerate.

Question: Aren't you just showing off how fast you can read/you aren't really reading all these, are you?

To the second: yes, I am, thanks. To the first: maybe a little, but that isn't the main point. If I wrote video games or painted pictures, would you consider it showing off if I released them into the wild in hopes of them finding an audience? I'm trying to entertain people through good writing, and maybe get some books I like some love and steer people away from some things I think are clunkers. Also it is amazing how much one learns about one's own opinions through trying to write about something. I don't articulate half of this until it comes out my fingers.

And that about does it for the FAQ.


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March 2017

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