My Imaginary Reading Plan, and Yours?

Summary: My imaginary 2022 reading plan today would be:

  1. Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Short Fiction (BSFFSF) group reads (ongoing, typically one story each day).
  2. Not the Retro Hugo’s 1946 reading (in progress) for possible ChiCon 8 panels in September.
  3. 2022 Award Hugo Nominations that I have not read yet (waiting for the voter packet).
  4. BSFFSF Recommended Reading List entries I have not read yet (in progress).
  5. Rich Horton’s Best of the Last 20 Years List entries I have not read yet.
  6. “The Norton Book of Science Fiction: North American Science Fiction, 1960-1990”, edited by Brian Attebery and Ursula K. Le Guin (requested from the library).
  7. “Science Fiction: Stories and Contexts”, edited by Heather Masri. This is the last of the 6 door-stop surveys of the 20th century (and 19th and 21st for some) SF I plan to read, compare and discuss later this year.
  8. Other collections, anthologies, stories, novels and non-fiction books that come to my attention, especially from our BSFFSF members.
  9. Miscellaneous comfort rereads of books and stories that I feel like rereading when I need it.
  10. I am not yet signed up, but I am reading enough short fiction that I am going to get subscriptions (e-book, not paper) for one or two SF(F) magazines. My thoughts are currently Clarkesworld and Asimov’s.

The Story: I’ve been a big reader for many, many decades. This is both one of my primary ways of learning and interacting with the world and one of my favorite hobby activities. I tend to read more than I watch TV or the movies. If my eyes get bad enough, I’ll have to switch to audio books and such.

I had struggled with some kind of learning disability when I was young; I did not really learn how to read until I was 9 years old, when my much loved grandmother Billie “Ellen” Hook (a librarian) and a teacher friend of hers spent a lot of time that summer helping me learn to read effectively. They, and the training I received afterwards, did enable me to read at a high rate of speed with good comprehension.

Once that breakthrough occurred, I spent a lot of time reading. Sometimes my friends and siblings had to drag me away from a book, and that still happens today with my family at times.

I know that I was probably exposed to a lot of science fiction in the sixth grade in Mill Valley. Both the public library in Mill Valley and the school library at Edna Maguire Middle School had science fiction and fantasy (SFF) in their collections. The first SFF books I really remember were from those libraries.

One of those books was from the “Lensman” series by E. E. “Doc” Smith, a rip-roaring space opera. I suspect that “First Lensman” might have been the first of those I read, from the middle school library. Today, this is definitely a guilty pleasure, but I can still enjoy a reread today as long as I’m prepared to reflect on the things in it that I find objectionable today. The other book I remember reading and enjoying was “Address: Centauri” by F. L. Wallace, from the public library. I remembered things about this book without remembering the title for decades. Perhaps the internet helped me figure this out. Not an amazing book, but it spoke to me then and I still enjoy the Wally Wood cover.

Since then, SFF has formed a large part of my recreational reading.

In addition to reading library books, I did buy and read quite a few SFF books and magazines especially in the 1970s. I had a subscription to Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, on and off, throughout high school and college. I kept most of these, even as I moved around during middle school, high school, college and after.

Although I always used the library as a primary resource, I continued to buy and own books over time.

One issue with this was the over-accumulation of “stuff”. My lovely wife did tell me that I had acquired too much “stuff” including books, compact discs and comic books perhaps 10 years ago, and asked me to do something about it. My choices included getting rid of some of it or getting a storage locker. I did not want to be a guy who rented a storage locker because he had run out of room in his house. Accordingly, I culled a modest amount of the stuff, and slowed way, way, way down on the acquisition of non-electronic books and music. I achieved domestic tranquility achieved on that issue.

The other issue was tracking books that I wanted to read. I’m sure I had lists or spreadsheets of books I wanted to read for a long time; none survive. One of the really annoying things that occurred occasionally was my buying a book by an author that I really liked, only to discover that a) I had already read the book and b) that I had not liked it and still did not like it. In the mid 1990s, I decided to create a database for my book reading to address that issue and generally keep track..

I used Microsoft Access to create the book database. I knew almost nothing about databases when I started the project, other than that it was a good idea and that spreadsheets were no longer enough for this. I’m sure this took me a lot longer than it would have taken someone who knew what they were doing (easily a year longer for me). After this, I went on to create similar databases for my comic books, CDs, and SF magazines.

This database tracks book entry information for me, both for books that I want to read and for books that I have read. I have always been a somewhat ambitious reader who likes to have books in the queue for future reading. It’s not unusual for me for have 300 to 500 books in the “not yet read” report here, regardless of how many books a year I read.

As personal cell phone became more ubiquitous, I started to use a Notes program on my cell phone to track books I want to read when I heard about them. I still transfer them to the database eventually.

I joined the Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Short Fiction (BSFFSF) Facebook group, and found that I needed to track my reading on a story basis and not just a book basis. Among other things, my memory is certainly not good enough to be able to discuss short fiction unless I keep a record for each story.

I’m still using that Notes program on my cell phone, but I found that using MS OneNote is a pretty good solution for tracking my short SFF reading across all of the platforms I use, including my Windows laptop, cell phones, and tablets.

To get back to the basic thesis of this essay, I’ve never really had a plan fore what I was going to read other than what I had to read for school and work. I’ve tracked what I wanted to read and read based upon a number of factors, but have not generally had a plan.

I don’t really feel the need to have a plan now, but I did think it would be fun to talk about what would be in a reading plan now if I had one.

I am still relatively young at 65. Although I had bladder cancer survivor, I appear to have weathered treatment for that (if my scan is clean this summer, I graduate from monitoring) and can declare victory and do the victory dance as much as any of us can. I am blessed with every day.

Some years ago, a figure in the SFF world observed that he was now old enough that he would never be able to read all the books and stories that he wanted to. When I read this, before I had cancer, I thought, “I’m not there yet, I have plenty of time.”

I still think that, but I no longer consider reading books that I don’t want to read. My life is too short for that. I can occasionally be convinced to give a book a second or third chance, but not often. Similarly, I don’t read short SFF that I don’t want to read, although I am more willing to finish a short SFF story that I don’t like compared to a book I am not enjoying.

My experience reading short SFF over the last two years has lead me to focus my efforts a bit. When I recently wrote about my favorite short SF stories, I did have to mention that there were many, many potentially great short SF stories that I know about that I have not yet read. I speculate that perhaps 1/3 to 1/2 of my favorite 100 short SF stories might change.

With all that, I thought it might be fun to write about what my reading plan is for the rest of the year, and see what others are thinking about in this area. See my list at the top. What are your plans for reading?

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