Saturday, January 2, 2016
2015: a bad year for reading #blog12daysxmas Day 9
A number of years ago, at this time of the year I decided that I wasn't reading enough. So I set up my Hecuba Reads blog and at the same time experimented with various online tools for recording my reading. After a bit of experimentation, I finally decided to go with Goodreads. My sister who uses it voraciously had suggested it during my first musings. Yes, she was right I finally decided.
I actually had no idea how much or little I was reading and so I made a modest commitment to read 52 books in the year, i.e. an average of one a week. Surely I could do that? That was for 2010. Without any particular effort (apart from the recording) that year I easily reached 62 titles, by reading or rereading. In following years, I have made the same commitment, some times documented here, some times not (most notably not for 2015 when I didn't document anything here) but always there on Goodreads.
So how have I gone after that initial year? Quite well really to 2014. In 2012 I read 71 titles, in 2013 76 titles, and in 2014 I managed 105 titles! So that was all to the good. But then came 2015. In 2015 I succeeded in reading only 34 titles! Why did my reading levels plummet like this? Is there an explanation?
I think there is and it is probably not going to go away any time soon. I definitely haven't stopped reading. I just don't read books or can't read the ones I want to! In 2013 I decided I was going to try to learn Greek again and in 2014 I headed for Athens and an intensive Greek language course at the Athens Centre. That was an amazing experience and has set me firmly on a new (or revisited) pathway. But you may well say, that was in 2014 when your reading levels didn't plummet.
When I finished the Athens Centre course in 2014, I did continue to try to read bits and pieces in Greek news sites but it was all rather sporadic and without application. After a short flurry of last-minute revision I returned to the Athens Centre in 2015 for the next level of the course. And what a different experience that was! I was so cross with myself for the stuff I couldn't remember from the previous level - out of sight, out of mind for a year. Because I had on a number of occasions over the last 40 years (gulp!) made efforts to learn Greek, there was actually very little that I learned in the 2014 course that I hadn't already learnt before. I certainly didn't remember it, but it wasn't particularly new and, let's face it, we were there for fun.
There was certainly fun in the 2015 classes where there was constant laughter and much hard learning going on. And there was lots of new stuff this time. Outside the classes the homework filled up most of my spare time and I was also doing a MOOC from Monash University so that was taking time. I started several books during that time - and have never finished them. And, whilst I have read titles since, I date the downward slide to that period.
This time I left the Greek course not only with my head stuffed full of new stuff that I needed to get my head around properly but also with the realization that my brain was remembering stuff it had learnt decades ago! How amazing was that? This started happening to me during the course when I would come out with words that I had no idea I knew. It must have been quite frustrating for the teacher as I was also remembering ancient Greek and katharevousa words and not distinguishing the difference. "Yes, I understand the word, but we only really use it in church" is one response I remember.
I hasten to add that this was just a very little transformation and only noticed by me. However, it was enough to make me determined not to go backwards again - for the umpteenth time. So the end result of this has been that my reading time almost every day since has focused on quite short Greek pieces which I take forever to read surrounded by dictionaries. And it's very much a two steps forward one step back sort of feeling. But I definitely do spend time reading almost every day. And in addition to the short articles, I have over the year, in addition to the 34 titles which include a number of Greek easy readers, read some Greek poetry. I have read some Cavafy and Seferis and I reintroduced myself to Dimitris Tsaloumas. But that has just been dipping and not whole books. I did also read some Greek picture books which I didn't document.
And so, for the coming year what will I do? Yes, I'll certainly keep slogging away with my Greek and one day I might even find myself up to reading a short story :) And I will again set myself an annual target on Goodreads of reading 52 titles in the coming year. A good start might be to read some of the books I have downloaded and never read, or ones I started reading last year but didn't finish.
So that determined librarian at the top of the post is fighting for two things in relation to reading: firstly, her continued struggles with Greek reading, and secondly, a greater effort at reading English language books so that 52 titles will be read with great ease again in 2016. We'll see. Θα δούμε.