- Cullman, Alabama


January 1, 2013

COMMENTARY: Slate - 366 Days, 366 Books


The resolution almost didn't last 24 hours, but New Year's night I forced my eyelids open and read a short horror novel. The following day I finished "Cinderella Ate My Daughter," which, despite its title, was not a horror novel but a pop-culture history I'd been working on for a few days. The day after that I peeled off a "Walking Dead" collection. Driving to work, I hit the final disc of a Nelson DeMille audiobook. The night after that, I read the final chapter of a Narnia book to my daughter at bedtime.

Seven days, seven books. So far, so good. A good six of those books were timing and luck — it can take me three weeks to finish an audiobook, and more than a month to finish a bedtime story. But I gave it another week. And another. Soon my every waking thought was on reading.

The prime directive for this sort of project, you might think, is to pick short books. I don't deny that 2012 was not the year for me to launch into Terry Goodkind. Want some Tolstoy? "The Forged Coupon," not "War and Peace." But as it turned out, Read Short Books was rule No. 2.

No, my prime directive was: no min-maxing. In "Dungeons and Dragons," "min-maxing" is focusing on one character attribute to the exclusion of everything else. (Sheldon Cooper from "The Big Bang Theory" is an excellent example of someone who min-maxes intelligence, stealing points from charisma and dexterity.) If you've ever been in a team sport, school play or med school, you know how that commitment supersedes all others. Parties are missed, sleep is skipped, emails go unreturned. "I can't — I have practice/rehearsal/a corpse to dissect."

Text Only