Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Game of Reading, a Few Weeks In

A couple of weeks ago, I announced my latest harebrained scheme for organizing my reading life, The Game of Reading.  I'm sure no one is exactly on tenterhooks wondering about the state of play, but there has been what you might call "polite interest."  So here, whether you need it or not, is the play by play of the first weeks.

You might remember that I started with a hand of ten "Any New Book" cards.  That evening, I picked up The Art Forger's Handbook, a dapper little guide to art forgery by an actual art forger, and after reading the first few pages realized that I had thereby played a card.
  • Card played: 00 - "Any New Book"
  • Card drawn: 533 - "Discard one card from your hand"
And so we leapt immediately into the meta-reading game mechanics.  Since my hand consisted only of "Any New Book" cards, I was forced to sacrifice one of them.  Ouch!
  • Discarded: 00 - "Any New Book"
  • Replacement cards: 480 - "Ask Patrick" and 438 - "Shakespeare"
Now the game was on in earnest.  I emailed Patrick for his mandate, and started looking at the Shakespeare list to think about what play I'd like to read.

Meanwhile, in the earbuds, I reached the end of David Copperfield and moved on to a book I had already picked out, Howl's Moving Castle.
  • Card played: 00 - "Any New Book"
  • Card drawn: 381 - "Non-Fiction"
The next day, I was at the beach.  I finished a piece of light fiction that was already in the works, and picked up a Scandinavian detective procedural from the summer reading pile.
  • Card played: 00 - "Any New Book"
  • Card drawn: 333 - "Unrestricted New Book"  Score!  We love these.
At this point I had drawn five times without picking any of the individual books that I'm supposed to be re-reading.  Since those make up 55% of the deck, the odds of this run were less than 2%.  The law of averages would soon reassert itself.  Still at the beach, having plowed my way through the latest Inspector Harry Hole adventure, I started into a new-to-me Shakespeare comedy, As You Like It.  You'll get the run-down on that in a "Michael5000 vs. Shakespeare" this Friday or thereabouts.
  • Card played: 438 - "Shakespeare"
  • Card drawn: 98 - "For Whom the Bell Tolls"
Well OK!  I ear-read the Hemingway classic on audio last time, and have yet to eye-read anything since a high-school era go at Old Man and the Sea.  So, I'll probably go at my re-read the old-fashioned way, with paper and such.  Meanwhile, though, I woke up on Saturday and picked up another Scandinavian detective procedural -- this one Swedish instead of Norwegian, because it's important to have a diverse diet of leisure reading.
  • Card played: 00 - "Any New Book"
  • Card drawn: 20 - "How Literature Works"
I remember How Literature Works as being a distinctly mediocre treatment of the subject by a star professor type, marred by memorably bad book design.  But maybe when I re-read it, I'll discover nuances!  Or, maybe I'll have another chance to blacken its name on Goodreads.

Finally, I woke in the night on Sunday and wrapped up the Swedish detective story.  In the morning, I decided -- although without cracking the cover just yet -- that the next book up is to be Dept. of Speculation, as directed by Patrick.
  • Card played: 480 - "Ask Patrick"
  • Card drawn: 136 - "Behind the Scenes at the Museum"
Now, there are two kinds of Kate Atkinson books: most of 'em I love, and a few of them I dislike but kind of feel like I should return to and figure out if there's something there I missed the first time.  I don't remember which Behind the Scenes is, but either way I win, right?  RIGHT?

The Hand in Hand

So, I'm currently at some stage in reading on a dozen or so books.  To start any new book, I have to finish one I'm working on, and then play one of my ten cards.  I've still got five "Any New Book" cards from the starting hand, plus an "Unrestricted New Book" (which is the same thing) that I drew from the deck.  I've got one genre card, "Non-Fiction," and three specific titles, For Whom the Bell Tolls, How Literature Works, and Behind the Scenes at the Museum.  Of these last three, I'd say I'm "game" for the first, "resigned" to the second, and "enthusiastic" about the third.  That's pretty good odds.

A game should involve gamesmanship, naturally, and this one is working out pretty well.  Drawing the "Non-Fiction" card after starting The Art Forgers Handbook, for instance, provoked a satisfying feeling of "aw, man, if I had this card a few days ago I wouldn't have had to blow one of my 'Any New Book' cards."  A lot of the strategy is obviously to avoid getting yourself painted into a corner with a hand of books that all seem like a chore.  One tactic to this end is to leap on the challenges as they appear -- hence my mid-summer's night reading of As You Like It, which turned out to be a fine choice.  Another will undoubtedly be to sit on less desirable titles until one of the discard cards happens along.  Heavens, it just occurred to me that it might be sensible to deliberately keep an undesirable title on hand so that a discard card doesn't repeat its trick of forcing me to toss out a valuable card.  Permutations, people!!

And You?

I'm curious if anyone else has a consciously-applied system of selecting their reading material, such as "going through the Booker Prize winners" or "attending graduate school."  Or, perhaps you have an unconscious system that you didn't realize you were applying until you read these very words!  Do tell!  Or, if you need more system in your life, let me know and I will send you a semi-flexible system for picking your next ten books.  Mind you, you will be expected to report back.

And oh yeah

I was supposed to acknowledge that the "Game of Reading" masthead uses a photograph by Alyssia Suffrin, whose name I might not be spelling right, and who retains the copyright thereto and so on.


Michael5000 said...

This morning, I got to the end of Howl's Moving Castle. A smarter player would have looked at his available audiobooks and used the Non-Fiction card if he could, but I forgot, and just fired up the Detective novel that jumped out at me. Another "Any New Book" card gone!

Jen Pfliegler said...

You're not playing wisely, my friend. haha!

pfly said...

My current system is basically: For years people have, now and then, suggested I read this or that book by Jack Vance. Finally, recently, I tried one and now am deep in the process of reading ALL of them.

Not much of a system, but hey.

Michael5000 said...

Jen: I'm playing relatively wisely. Since I wrote this I've continued to hoard my "Any New Book" cards, and was able to flush out How Literature Works (after checking it out from the library and seeing it was even worse than I remembered) with a "Discard" card. And, I've started to strategize with the audiobooks a little better. It's coming right along.

pfly: Jack Vance, eh? What's a recommended point of entry, please?

pfly said...

Oop, just saw this... I started with Rhialto the Marvellous and got hooked. Of the Dying Earth books I've read I think it is the best. Odd mix of magic fantasy, space opera-ish sci-fi, and...courtroom drama maybe? The main story is about Rhialto having all these adventures in trying to recover the properly legally binding set of laws needed to correctly prosecute his "case" against the other magicians.

Currently I'm enjoying the Lyonesse trilogy. Suldrun's Garden is the first one. Takes place in a kind of alternate history Earth, on a bunch of big islands in the Bay of Biscay, in a kind of pre-King Arthur legendary mythical time.

So, either of those, I'd say.