Those of you who have been reading me awhile know that my grandpa and I were very close, and that when he died, I inherited his book collection. I've been reading them a bit at a time ever since. Grandpa would have been the last person to want me to push aside my own reading for his, and he'd have been the last person to want me to make myself miserable with his books, so when I'm pretty sure I know I don't want something, I put it aside. James Patterson and I, for example, have parted ways permanently. I have learned all I can about Grandpa and his tastes in books from reading the volumes of James Patterson I have already read, and more would do me harm. But there's other stuff in which we're a lot more congruent, and other stuff in which I look forward to finding out whether we are, or at least finding out what Grandpa saw in it.
So the books are all piled on his desk, here in my office. And...that's not the working desk. The only thing it gets used for other than holding books in the to-read queue is wrapping presents. And yet clearing some more space on it feels like a triumph. I'm not ready to be done reading Grandpa's books--good thing, too, since there are well over a hundred left. I haven't counted. But I am ready to feel like I'm making progress. I'm ready to feel like it isn't infinite. I think today, in particular, I needed something to feel like progress, and hitting another thousand words of book is great for that...up until the point where you've said, "I shouldn't have daily or weekly word count goals, that's not being healthy for me right now." Then, of course, you exceed what you would have set for them, the minute you drop them. Which maybe proves the point about how they weren't healthy? But also makes it hard to use them as the indicator of progress in quite the same way.
I keep reading my way through a book one of my godfathers gave Grandpa called The American Short Story. The The is underlined, and they mean it. They don't mean Some American Short Stories. They mean, by God, these are the most famousest ones that ever famoused. This book is remarkably ill-suited for how I talk about books. It's got The Turn of the Screw in it just kind of at random, sternly, this is something you should read, damn you, go read it, after some Melville but before you get to Hemingway. There are more than a thousand pages of this, and they are being quite firm about what is and is not canon. They know best. It isn't a book to read any more than his bird guide was a book to read (I read that too), any more than the Marine Corps Book of Lists was a book to read (I read that too), it's a thing you have to look up the things you're supposed to have read in, and then read them in bits. No wonder it sat in his chair-side magazine rack forever. I understand now. It's a staggering thing in its way.