While I was reading…

Apparently I have been so consumed with my everyday activities–sleeping, eating, reading, writing, editing, herding cats, attacking larpers, building enormous cakes–that I overlooked certain necessities. Firefly, for example. Faithful readers, who I am certain exist because if they do not I’m essentially talking to myself here, will recall my “yes, I’m late to the party, but holy hell, Firefly is amazing” revelation. There was a degree of embarrassment underlying my enthusiasm. Yes, I should have known about Firefly sooner. But I was busy, apparently. The sad fact of my tardiness isn’t going to prevent me from extolling the virtues of something that warrants praise. It’s not Firefly’s fault that I was derelict in my responsibilities as a nerd.

I apparently owe the universe yet another mea culpa. It came about when a friend from high school—Miranda Meek—encouraged me to add Scourge of the Righteous Haddock to Goodreads. Which I did immediately, because when you’re marketing an independent self-published novel, well, it’s not entirely unlike those reality show challenges in which contestants are given a coconut and a cell phone and told to stage a production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf or make a wedding dress or bake a wedding cake or make a wedding dress and then bake a wedding cake. You do whatever you can, whether it seems likely to impact your readership and sales or not. And at least reality show contestants have someone telling them what to do. (Presumably producers or the shows’ hosts.)

Within minutes of visiting Goodreads, I began berating myself for my previous neglect. It took less than a minute to sign up for an account, and less than five minutes for me to find and rate my favorite books, identify a few friends who use Goodreads, and begin pillaging their booklists for fresh literary conquests. (I use the term “conquest” mostly jokingly, as I don’t believe that a reader conquers a book; in truth, it is quite the opposite.) For the first time in my life, I have an actual list with the names of books I’ve been meaning to read. I will probably still find scraps of paper with titles or the last name of an author scratched indecipherably across the corner in my jacket pockets and kitchen drawers. And I might still forget the occasional title.

But Goodreads changes just about everything. My approach to books and reading is so haphazard, a strange mix of what my gut tells me to read, what I can actually find, and what my friends and colleagues recommend. I’m not arguing that my future reading habits are going to involve schedules or Post-It Notes or highlighters, and I’m still going to follow my gut a good percentage of the time. But the books I’ve been meaning to read for years aren’t going to slip my mind or fall into the impenetrable crevasse that I’m certain exists between my medulla and cerebellum. They’ll be there, on Goodreads, waiting for me.

Some will be patient. They’ll understand that a book can take on many meanings for a reader, that pairing the right moment with the right book can mean the difference between mere enjoyment and a life-altering epiphany. Others will flutter their pages eagerly. They’ll watch enviously as other books join and depart the list, and they’ll know, in the depths of their ink-stained souls, that it ought to have been them, that no other protagonist could match theirs for charm, that there is no villain more dastardly, no poetry that glows stronger and brighter than their own. Because books are faith and hope in their corporeal form. They are not temples to these virtues, but the very virtues themselves. What is reading if not act of faith? What is writing if not an act of hope?

And what is a site that helps structure and expand your relationship with books, if not the work of a saint?


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