looking at some numbers

I’ve been doing a lot of reading over the last couple months. Just devouring and devouring books upon books almost indiscriminately. Sci-fi, fantasy, horror, biographies, cookbooks, romance – bits and pieces of everything (I read a tad broadly…). I’ve been drinking these words in and swimming in them, luxuriating in them, indulging. It feels like I’m gorging on them, barely even choosing, heedless of genre (or sometimes quality). For the past two months now, it’s felt hurried and frenetic, and I didn’t stop to wonder why.

When I was a kid, I read voraciously. And I was lucky, my parents filled our house with books. Whenever we would spending money, I would go straight to B&N or Half-Price and blow it all on books (remember when you could get a paperback for like 5$?). My dad used to take me to my favorite public library (yep, you read that right – I had been to enough of them that I had a favorite) and leave me there for an afternoon, coming back several hours later to pick me up. (I am not endorsing this as a child-rearing technique.) During that time, I would walk the shelves, breathing in the musty scent of old pages and the weight of paper, picking books up until I had a sizeable stack that I could wrap my child arms around. And then I would find a comfortable spot in the fiction section, sometimes just leaning up against one of the shelves, and I would get lost in stories and stories. When my dad would come back to pick me up, I would bring a tower of borrowed books with me. And then a couple weeks later, the cycle would repeat.

At some point in medical school, I slipped into a depressive funk as I struggled to come to terms with the path I set myself on. I don’t know that I recognized it as such at the time, but the anhedonia was clear and present. I left my books behind, only picking up one or another sporadically, with a kind of heavy resignation. I told myself that it was just because I was too busy reading things for school, and then later for training, but given how much I was still reading in college, that seemed flimsy even to me. It was harder to feel joy, and it was harder to escape, and the myriad worlds that I used to get lost in left me feeling jealous and empty.

So I stopped to a large extent, coming back to it in breaks, in waves, because I couldn’t stay away, not really. I read mostly pop science (e.g. Mary Roach), romance (for that emotional uplift), and medical autobiographies (I think to try to understand my own choices better – though none of the stories I read really resonated with me) during those years.

I’m thinking about this now because I’ve been putting together monthly reading round-up lists for myself and to possibly post here, to keep a record of sorts to look back at. So, I’m going back and looking at some of the book lists I kept scrawled in various notebooks and long forgotten Word docs (I was not keeping up with Goodreads at this time unfortunately. Seeing the stats for this year specifically makes the correlation between how much and what I was reading and my mental state much more obvious.

Here’s a snapshot:

Month Number of Books Read Notes
January 1
February 3 This was when Adam and I had several big conversations about my quitting, and when I started considering it seriously.
March 10 Let my programs know what I was planning. Read several pop psychology/productivity type books this month.
April 0 Busy work month.
May 5
June 8 Was traveling a lot this month and anticipating a huge life shift.
July 1 Adjusting to new circumstances.

That’s 28 books in about 7 months. And then I read 23 books over the course of August and September. I don’t necessarily expect that this will stay so correlated. I think it was kind of a weird sating-of-appetites kind of occurrence after so long a drought. I anticipate that the amount I’m reading will calm down a bit in the coming months.