A few years ago, I noticed a trend in my reading patterns that bothered me: I spent most of my time re-reading old favorites and very little time reading new books. Not that I stopped buying new books — I did plenty of that, with the result that the number of unread titles I accumulated started to get worrisome. So I decided to set a goal for myself for the following year: I would read at least 12 new titles over the course of the year — an average of one a month, which seemed an easy enough target.

Not only did I meet my goal, I exceeded it by half, reading 18 new books. (I joined a book club, which helped.) And while I look through that first list of titles and don’t recall even half of them fondly, I’m still glad that I didn’t spend that time reading Steven Brust, Douglas Adams, and Harry Potter for the Nth time.

Since then, I’ve tried to improve a little bit each year, adding one or two books to the prior year’s total. I succeeded in each year save one: 2005, the year of Katrina. Surprisingly enough, that year I did at least match the previous year’s total of 25 titles, although 9 were in the form of audiobooks. I’m still not entirely convinced that the audiobooks aren’t cheating, but since I only listen to unabridged titles, I can’t find any good reason to exclude them.

This year, though, I’m worried. Last year I read 30 books, and I’m not seeing how I’m going to top or even match it, not with my current total standing at only 20. I’ve had this moment of calculation in prior years — looking at the calendar, analyzing the number of weeks left and how often I’d need to finish a book to hit the mark. I remember being in this position in 2004 and getting through a surprising 8 books in as many weeks, but I’m just not sure I’m going to make it this year. I’ve been picking my titles and counting down: The King’s Own and A Cook’s Tour are both underway, as is the audio version of Terry Pratchett‘s Making Money; and I do have 9 weeks to go, so there’s hope. And there’s nothing like time pressure to light a fire under a person.

I’ll keep you posted. (See Current Tally in the sidebar.) But for now, A Cook’s Tour awaits.

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