William P. Warford

What books are you reading this year?

Whenever my friends and I gather, the question inevitably comes up: What are you reading?

Now you can keep track of the books you read and share the titles not just with your friends but also with the world. The website Good­reads.com invites you to participate in its 2019 Reading Challenge.

The goal is to get peop­le to read more books — a worthy goal, especially when you consider the other entertainment options these days.

We preach to the choir here, of course. Anyone who still reads a daily newspaper and who reads a column about books needs no reminder of the importance of reading.

On the Goodreads Chal­lenge, you pledge to read a certain number of books and then list them as you go. As I write, 879,504 people have pledged to read 41,740,884 books in 2019.

Interestingly, 132 chal­lenges have already been completed. Those peop­le, we can assume, pledged to read only one or two books in 2019. Con­gratulations, you did it!

I have been enjoying the much-needed three-week vacation from my teaching job, spending much of my time reading. I have never kept track of the books I read, but 2018 would probably be the record.

Four grad school lit­er­ature classes and pre­lim­inary work on my master’s thesis kept me turning pages.

While many of the re­quired-reading titles were enjoyable, it is nice now, on vacation, to read books without worrying about writing an essay on them.

I just finished Andrew Rob­erts’s brilliant biog­raphy of Winston Chur­chill, and the great Charles Krauthammer’s post­humous collection of col­umns, “The Point of it All.”

One of my favorite auth­ors for pure en­ter­tain­ment is Jeffrey Ar­cher. His latest novel, “Heads You Win,” con­tains some dis­ap­point­ments but I liked it any­way.

It tells the story of a Russian boy and his mother who escape from Leningrad in 1968,

After the KGB murders his father, Alexander and his mother Elena are smuggled out of the country in a crate. On the docks, there are two crates to choose from: one going to London, the other to New York.

They can’t decide, so they flip a coin. Then, ta­king the-road-not-trav­eled theme, the novel tells the story, in al­ter­na­ting chapters, of their life in New York and their life in London.

The disappointments come with the ending and with some truly im­plaus­ible scenes. And what was supposed to be a sur­prise was anything but.

Still, the pondering of how life can be made so completely different based on decisions we make kept the book in­ter­esting.

I like audiobooks when I am walking or dri­­ving, and my latest is Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s “The Idiot.” No, that is not the biography of one of our current politicians.

The Goodreads chal­lenge will help you read more because, like any­thing else, writing it all down and keeping track of it makes it more likely you will do it.

The singer Art Gar­fun­kel has kept track of the books he’s read for decades. You can see them on his website.

He read 10 books in 2018, bringing his total to 1,281 since he started keeping track in 1968.

I noted one book that Art and I both read in 2018: Robert Hilburn’s “Paul Simon: A Life.”

Something tells me I liked it more than Art did.

William P. Warford’s column appears every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday.

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