As you may (or may not) remember, Ash (English Major’s Narrative) and I have embarked on a project to read an Essay a Day in 2011. After we announced our grand plan last December, Vasilly (1330v) e-mailed and said she wanted to join us, which was awesome! After one month in, I thought it was time to offer an update on my progress.
I’m still trying to figure out how to fit reading essays (and, probably even more challenging) writing about essays fits into my reading routine. My first thought was to read an essay as soon as I wake up in the morning, to star my day off with some good writing as inspiration. But that hasn’t really worked because I spend too much time reading blogs in the morning and run out of time/forget about reading an essay. I also tried reading over lunch, but that habit hasn’t stuck yet. It seems like the best time to read an essay or two is right before I go to bed. An essay is a nice length to help me get drowsy, and when then end it’s easy to put the book down.
The problem with reading at night is that it doesn’t work with my other goal for the project: to post about each essay on my Tumblr as a way to keep track of my reading. I don’t want to bring my laptop to bed with me, and writing a post on my tablet is a huge pain. And writing after I finish reading wakes me up, which is not the point of reading before bed!
I think what I need to do is start keeping a notebook and pen with my book of essays, so I can take notes whenever and wherever I read, then just make a point of putting thoughts on Tumblr the next time I’m by a computer rather than feeling like I’ve missed my opportunity if I don’t write up a post immediately after I finish reading. Simple solution… it’s silly I didn’t think of it until now!
Other than that, I’ve been really enjoying the practice of incorporating essays into my reading routine. I think I’ll be able to finish quite a few of my unread essay collections by the end of the year, which will be great. I don’t think it’s been slowing down my reading on other books by any measureable amount, which is nice too.
The first collection I was reading from was Best American Essays 2007, edited by David Foster Wallace. It wasn’t my favorite collection of essays, despite how much I liked DFW’s introduction to the book. On the whole, I felt like too many of the essays had a political bent. I’m not opposed to politically-motivated pieces, but a collection (even a “best of” collection) needs to have some variety. I skipped over a number of the pieces, just because I wasn’t feeling engaged. Skipping one essay in a collection used to really bug me, but I must have matured and calmed as a reader because it wasn’t a problem this time around.
I also included some long-form writing that I found online in my first month of reading. Of those pieces, I can’t recommend Tom Junod’s essay, “My Mom Couldn’t Cook,” from Esquire highly enough. I thought it was awesome.
My next collection, which I’m 10 essays into at the moment, is Best American Essays 2011. So far, I’m enjoying it a lot more. There feels like there is more variety, both in topic and format, in the book. I think the editor, Edwidge Danticat, and I have similar tastes in essays, which is a plus! She even included one of my favorite essays from last year, “What Broke My Father’s Heart” by Katy Butler, which I also highly, highly recommend.
So I guess, in summation, despite some fits and starts and missed days of reading, I got to the end of January and I’ve read 31 essays. Here’s to 29 more in February!