With all this data available, I’ve been toying with the idea that it would be interesting to spend a decade re-reading the books I had read the previous decade. It would! But of course, one only has so many decades. So I’m not going to do that.
What I ~am~ going to do is make a little game out of book selection that encourages lots of rereading, and also tries to steer my reading diet in various directions, without being so programmatic that it sucks every last drop and dreg of joy from my life. It will be fun! Maybe!
The Game of Reading is a card-deck game, and might be a little bit like Magic: the Gathering. I’m not sure, because I don’t really know that much about Magic: the Gathering. My sense is, though, that it’s a game where taking a turn means playing a card from your hand, then drawing a replacement from a big complicated deck.
(A source close to the enterprise points out that Magic: the Gathering is also a game that involves interaction with other humans. The Game of Reading isn’t like that. There’s no interaction with other humans, except authors.)
In the Game of Reading, I’ll be “taking a turn” every time I select a book to read. To pick a book, I will play one of the ten cards in my “hand,” and then draw a new card to replace it. For instance, it’s possible that I might play a “Science Fiction” genre card in order to read something by Ursula LeGuin, and then draw a “Western” genre card as its replacement. That doesn’t mean that I have to read a Western next – I’ve got ten cards to choose from in my hand, after all. But, I should start thinking about what I want to read that will let me play that Western card in the fullness of time.
With me so far? If so, you realize that, as in Magic: the Gathering (or so I am told), the game is really all about the deck.
The Deck, like the Electoral College of the United States of America, is composed of 535 items. I spent a very entertaining evening tinkering with it. (I won’t really make the physical cards until I “draw” them, mind you. The conceptual deck exists in the form of a numbered list of cards-in-waiting, and a randomized list of numbers representing their shuffled positions.) Here are the contents:
- Two hundred ninety-five of the cards – a little more than half – are the Individual Books I read from 2009 to 2011, plus a smattering that I read before I started my Goodreads account but entered on my account anyway. Card #87, for instance is Anna Karenina. Card #91 is Crime and Punishment. Card #84 is Carry On, Jeeves. It’s a mixed bag. Card #92 is something called Slouching Towards Kalamazoo, of which I have no memory whatsoever. But I might be rereading it, sooner or later.
- There are 50 Unrestricted New Book cards. I can play these to read anything I want.
- There are 60 Genre Cards: 10 each of Science Fiction, Detective, and Fantasy, 3 of Western, 2 of Romance, and 25 of something called “Non-Fiction.” That last category is admittedly rather broad.
- There are 20 International Cards, calling out books from the French, German, Spanish, Russian, “other European” languages, and Japanese, as well as books from India.
- There are 20 Challenge Cards designating books that are in some way “hard,” for instance old or long. For instance, there are 3 Shakespeare cards, 5 cards that compel me to advance the moribund Michael Reads the Bible Blog, and 4 cards that require me to try again with any book that I’ve listed as “abandoned” on Goodreads.
- 10 cards tell me to read something from that shelf in the bedroom, where I’ve parked books that I plan to read someday.
- 15 cards tell me to re-read something that I read before I started the Goodreads account.
- Then, there are 30 cards that tell me to solicit a recommendation from someone – five cards for Mrs.5000, smaller numbers for various bookish friends and regular IAT voters.
- Finally, and in the gaming spirit, there are 18 cards that let me return a card from my hand to the deck, and another 12 that let me discard a card from my hand entirely.
To transition in, I have dealt myself an initial hand of 10 “Any New Book” cards that are not from the deck. See?
Also, the 10 or 12 books that I have started but have on the back burner don’t require a card. Tomorrow, though, I will probably finish my audiobook of David Copperfield. When I pick my next audio book, I will have to play one of the “Any New Book” cards – they’re all I have for my initial play – and make my first replacement draw. SO EXCITING!!!
1. I listen to a lot of audiobooks. For the Game of Reading, eye-reading and ear-reading are equivalent – both require a card, from the same hand and the same deck. It would be cool to eye-read books I listened to the first time around, and vice versa, but that’s not a requirement.
2. Book Group selections are exempt from the game.
3. The Serial Fiction rule: Any time I draw a specific book from a series, I may substitute in another book from the same series. Card #170, for instance, is The Naming of the Dead, the 16th entry in Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus detective series. If I draw that card, I can read any of the Inspector Rebus books. This will keep me from being forced to read series out of order.
So, This Deck Will Determine the Next 535 Books You Read?
Nah. Assuming I enjoy the system – and you know what happens when we assume – the top 60 or 70 cards from the deck will steer my reading for the rest of 2016. When 2017 starts, all of the books I read in 2012 will be added to the deck, the ratios will be adjusted to reflect evolving priorities, the deck will be shuffled, and we’ll go from there.