Tuesday, December 23, 2014

No Book Unread Project Update #1 - The Snare Strewn Path to Progress

Back in July of this year, as I scratched out the basic premise for No Book Unread while I sat in the shade of my garage, I had grand visions for the project. I imagined myself months from then, one leg perched upon a mountain of completed books while thousands of viewers flocked to my blog in an unending torrent. Flash forward a few months and here I am sheepishly nudging a stack of books that doesn't even come up to my knee. It dawns on me now too that I may have marginally over-estimated my crowd appeal. Considering that my total views are just under 300 at the time of writing I may have to admit that my inevitable internet fame has been postponed. In all seriousness though, I am immensely grateful for all of the the small group of visitors that somehow found their way here in these first few months. You were probably lost, but I'm glad you came by anyways.

Most of these books are my wife's....
I'm nearly 5 months in now since my first post on No Book Unread, and with this busy time of the year foreboding another temporary absence I decided it would be a good time to look back and assess my progress. For a blog started on a whim, I don't think I'm doing too bad; I mean, I could certainly be doing a lot worse. I'm attempting to read over 200 books here. But even ignoring the sheer quantity I've found that reading and writing regularly is more difficult than I anticipated. Once the initial surge of motivation wore off the extra time I spent writing and poring through pages manifested as back-loads of laundry and dishes. This made the project decidedly more challenging and for reasons I hadn't anticipated. I certainly didn't foresee vacuuming as an obstacle to reading. 

A quick bit of math reveals that in my 5 months I've only managed to average about 1.4 books a month. That's roughly one book every three weeks. Hardly the mountain I had originally hoped for, but even at three weeks a book I'm reading significantly more than I have been since middle school. Although, if I take into account the page count of each book then I'm probably reading more frequently now than I have in my entire life. Wow. I hadn't realized that before now.

The real difficulty in working on NBU (No Book Unread) has been finding a sense of balance. The project has shed some light on the relationships between my writing/reading project, daily chores, and work life how they interact to find an equilibrium of sorts. The short version is that they balance about as well as a three way standoff. At best all parties play nice just long enough to accomplish something and, at worst, everybody dies. The resulting interplay between the facets of my life form a dynamic triangle that, in its most balanced state, results in my efforts being split three ways for mediocre effort in all areas. To applying effort in any one area seems to mean that I have to detract from another. Putting more effort into my writing means my work and/or chores get moved to the back burner and vice versa. Thus far this has been the most frustrating aspect of working on NBU. Sometimes, no matter which choice I make, I feel like I'm shooting myself in the foot. In order to continue making progress though the choice often comes down to "which foot"?

Another issue I've struggled with, this one anticipated, has been staying consistently focused on reading. I've always had trouble concentrating over long periods of time. Even a cursory review of my hobbies and interests would reveal that almost everything I do comes and goes in endless cycles of interest and disinterest: explosive development followed by fallow renewal. My video editing projects are often measured in days but are punctuated by months of inactivity. Every other summer I spend my time hiking and/or vigorously seeking out events and concerts but then the next year I can't be bothered. At least once a year I decide that it's about time I get in shape, and then after about four or so months later I lose motivation (although rarely without results). My consistent interests (primarily games, movies, anime, and reading) constantly shift focus. Even my persistent interests like anime, games, and movies constantly shift focus like the tides. My mood for specific genres or media is constantly in flux, so asking for some consistency in my reading habits is no small favor.  

I think I've struggled to stay focused, in part, because I'm particularly fond of visual media. I think most people are these days. Our entire culture has become a visually oriented culture and I think access plays a role in that too. I used to read a lot in middle school but I also didn't have the same distractions as many people my age. My family didn't have cable TV so the shows I liked were only on for a few hours each day and it wasn't until after the Playstation 2 was out that I even got my first PS1. So, frequently unoccupied as I was, I frequently turned to books to pass the time, and not begrudgingly either. Flash forward to the present and I still enjoy reading just as much as I always have but now I have access to shows I like 24/7, I have a library of games so large that there are many I haven't even played, and I can watch anime that aren't even licensed in the U.S yet. With so many options vying for attention choosing to read is sometimes difficult. Watching is easy but reading requires more mental effort. With a book every facet of the world is visualized and maintained in your head and that can be difficult at the day's end. Books are a lot like riding a horse, if you can make the effort to get on they can take you far away and go places you'd never expect, but they require some skill and endurance to manage. If books are horses though, video games and shows are like tigers; they ambush you without warning, drag you off to their den and then refuse to let you go until they're through with you. Unfortunately, nine times out of ten, the run-in with the tiger requires less effort on your part and makes for more interesting conversation the following day. In contrast, only other riders are more likely to care about your horse stories.

As for the writing aspect of No Book Unread, I'm still a little uncertain of where I'm heading with it. Right now my entries are somewhere between review and critique and I still haven't decided if that's what I want. I'd like to include a little more humour in my writing but, as I have discussed elsewhere, that means that both myself and you, my poor lost readers, will have to put up with some rather forced humour until I get the hang of it or find another outlet for it. So far though I've had a few entries that I'm proud of regardless of whatever flaws they might have. Riddle of a Man is one of my more quality posts, from the pictures and content right down to the title. I finally felt that I had touched upon some quality content for the first time in that post. My only major complaint is that I could have transitioned topics a little more smoothly. Manager's Special was also another surprisingly good post that suffered from slight reluctance on my part to completely skewer the book. When I sat down to write the post I just felt bad about criticizing a book that was earnestly trying to be helpful even if it came across as equal parts arrogant. I think it shows in the post that I was torn between ripping the book to pieces and giving some fair credit. 

At this point I don't think I'll be able to get much more reading done before the end of the year, but I have some big plans going into 2015. Before then I'm hoping to at least finish off Sojourn before the end of December. To anyone still reading this, thanks for making it this far. I'll be looking forward to learning, improving, and critiquing as I continue in this project.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin


  1. I share your sentiments exactly. And while I managed to read 188 books this year, majority of these books are not what you could consider as "quality reads". I think that's the difference between reading 20 books and 200 books. If I endeavour to read books that are food for the brain, I probably wouldn't have been able to reach my Goodreads goal. I tend to read brain junk food, I suppose.

    I like the idea of your project. Looking forward to reading your posts!

    1. Thanks Joy, I appreciate you stopping by. You're actually my first commenter ever so double thanks and if you're so inclined you can add the traditional 'FIRST!!!' post. :p

      Well, brain junk is sometimes good too. I know some of my passtimes can be less than thought-provoking (manga, games, anime). Maybe you could slip in a few more books that coming year that are fit to wear the 'literary' mantle.

      Also, if you're interested, I'll have my final post of 2014 up before midnight.

  2. i really enjoyed reading this post John! i feel the same way sometimes about getting through my TBR pile. My backlog of books is actually one bookcase full right now, and it can seem daunting at times. Your blog looks great, and i love the layout! It was nice to read this post; so many book blogs are review heavy lately, that it was refreshing to read a different post about books and blogging for a change. thanks for a fun read this morning!

    1. Hi Emily, thanks for checking out my post! And thanks for the feedback on my layout, I spent quite a while trying to tweak it. Eventually I'd like to move to Wordpress or Ghost and try my hand at something more customizable but I think I'll be hanging around here for a while.

      Good luck on your TBR pile, it sounds like you have at least as many as I do to catch up on!

  3. I'd have to agree on Joy with this one. I read more than 150 books last year (I still need to actually figure out the actual number cause not all of them were marked on goodreads) but most of them are pretty much easy reads and some of them guilty pleasures. I'm actually on a reading break right now and it's weird but nothing is keeping my interest of late plus I've been watching too much Netflix lol.

    Anyway, I'm hoping to start reading again soon. My TBR pile is beginning to turn into a mountain. Awesome blog, John!

    1. Netflix is a bane to personal projects. I've gotten suckered into so many movies and series when I should be working on other things! What hooked you this time?

      I've been managing to read a little bit most days which, for me, is about the best I can manage when I'm not marathoning the last 200 pages of a book. Some of the print in the fantasy books by the way, so tiny! Thanks for stopping by Amir, I really appreciate it.


    First of all, find your niche/audience ;) I struggled with my blogging at first, too, and it was when I focused on YA and Adult SF/UF that I was finally able to find the concentration and a readership :) But, as the saying goes, blog however you want to blog and don't be pressured~ It's the only way to enjoy it, really. Someone told me to blog for yourself and not for others if you want a better peace of mind :D

    Second, you have a good writing voice, and I enjoyed reading this post, so I definitely wasn't lost at all!

    Third, I so understand where you are coming from. I may have read around 140 books in 2014, but I know I could have read even more if I really wanted to. Unfortunately, there are simply too many distractions around during the days I don't have the concentration to read for long periods of time. It's like I get a book, read 10 minutes into it, then turn on the internet and go, "OH YAS ONE PIECE CHAPTER IS OUT" and then there goes 3 hours of my life. Haha.

    It got especially hard in September and October when I didn't read a single book at all. Meh.

    Hope 2015 will be a better year for you, man! :)

    Faye at The Social Potato

    1. Thanks for the advice Faye! I really appreciate it. Actually, I'd appreciate any criticisms or critiques you have to offer as well. I'm happy to hear that you think I have a decent writing voice. In truth my primary goal in starting this blog (along with reading more) was to improve my writing. I think I have a way to go still, but reading your compliment makes me think I'm off to a good start.

      I decided to shoot for a conservative goal of about 24 books this year since this will be my first full year of this project. Of course, much like your One Piece habit I frequently get about 100 pages into a book and then get side-tracked by my friends, who draw me into their latest game or series. So I guess the word of the month then is 'focus'!