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My 2024 resolution is to read fewer books

As a new year begins, possibilities seem endless, and we set goals hopefully tied to our future fulfillment.

My resolution for 2024 may sound strange coming from someone who spends so much time writing about reading, but my goal this year is to read fewer books.

Because of my role as the Biblioracle, because of the sheer number of interesting books published every year — not to mention the nearly infinite number of older books I have yet to get to — I’ve always felt a certain responsibility to read as many books as possible. In practical terms, this means at least a book a week, and often more than that.

Last year I wrote about how I was briefly panicked that it was taking me multiple weeks to read Paul Murray’s “The Bee Sting.” I thought about abandoning it in order to get through more books, but sticking with it resulted in my most profound reading experience of the year. The final four months of the year had me working under a deadline on a book manuscript of my own, limiting my reading time. My lack of reading productivity was weighing on my mind.

But then I reacquainted myself with a book I read years back, “Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain” by Maryanne Wolf and I realized that this year, I want to slow down.

“Proust and the Squid” is an exploration of “deep reading” from every aspect imaginable. Deep reading is that sensation we can have when we join with a book in a way that causes our own brain to make connections and associations, to literally build knowledge and understanding through the experience of reading. Part of Wolf’s book explains the evidence in actual neuroscientific studies showing how different parts of our brain light up when we are reading deeply. Mostly, though, we know it when we feel it.

Deep reading is a skill, and like any skill, it’s one that can degrade without sufficient practice. The nature of our information diets, heavy on reading online makes deep reading a relatively rare part of my day, and while I can still get absorbed in a book, it doesn’t come with the same ease as before.

I’d become too focused on “consuming” books, getting through them for the sake of saying that I’d read them. I want to make sure that I’m extracting all the meaning possible from a particular reading experience, including that experience of getting lost inside a book. That’s what drew me to reading in the first place.

To help myself along on this journey, I’m taking a few practical steps. I’m removing the 15-book-high pile of unread books from my nightstand and putting them on a shelf in a closet. I once thought of this pile as motivational, a way to get excited about what’s coming, but it also has the potential to make me rush through what I’m doing at the moment.

I’m also not going to shy away from taking on longer books provided they sufficiently interest me. In recent years, I’ve often eschewed one long book to be able to read three shorter ones. As long as the book is worth my attention, why should it bother me if it takes me a few weeks to get through?

I expect this to be a bit of a struggle, but this seems to be the case for any worthwhile resolution. We can’t expect to reap rewards without overcoming some measure of difficulty.

I’m looking forward to luxuriating in whatever stories 2024 brings me.

John Warner is the author of “Why They Can’t Write: Killing the Five-Paragraph Essay and Other Necessities.”

Twitter @biblioracle

Book recommendations from the Biblioracle

John Warner tells you what to read based on the last five books you’ve read.

1. “P.G. Wodehouse in His Own Words” by Barry Day and Tony Ring

2. “How to Know a Person” by David Brooks

3. “And Yet …” by Christopher Hitchens

4. “From Beirut to Jerusalem” by Thomas Friedman

5. “Ours Was the Shining Future” by David Leonhardt

— Rick F., Palatine

Rick looks like a reader looking for insights into the world around him. I’m going with a small press (Belt) book that is not nearly as well-known as his list, but which I think will surprise him with its depth of insight into the lives we lead, “Midwest Futures” by Phil Christman.

1. “The Armor of Light” by Ken Follett

2. “Verified: How to Think Straight, Get Duped Less, and Make Better Decisions about What to Believe Online” by Mike Caulfield

3. “Conflict: The Evolution of War from 1945 to Ukraine” by David Petraeus

4. “Demon Copperhead” by Barbara Kingsolver

5. “The Wager: A Tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny and Murder” by David Grann

— David M., Chicago

I think Luis Alberto Urrea’s war novel, “Good Night, Irene” will be a great fit with David.

1. “Book Lovers” by Emily Henry

2. “Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow” by Gabrielle Zevin

3. “Things We Never Got Over” by Lucy Score

4. “Tom Lake” by Ann Patchett

5. “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn

— Lilly T., Chicago

How about a playful mystery with plenty of wit: “Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone” by Benjamin Stevenson.

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