Ah, Goodreads. You happy little site, taking advantage of my bibliophilia and asking me to challenge myself in 2011. In the midst of my giddiness, brought on by all the free time I had between Christmas and the New Year, I decided 50 books wouldn’t be an unreasonable goal, especially given the fact that I got a KindleBaby for Christmas (It’s my “KindleBaby” because all the books on my nightstand are jealous of the new baby.).
Then, in March, Goodreads was kind enough to let me know that I was already 20% behind in my goal. While I couldn’t really help it due to the death of a most beloved family member and simultaneously starting a full-time job, it got me thinking. Fifty books is a lot of books. Who really has time to read that many books? And then I remembered George Vanderbilt.
George Washington Vanderbilt was the youngest child of William Henry Vanderbilt, heir to Cornelius “The Commodore” Vanderbilt’s legendary transportation fortune. George seems to have been the only intellectual in a generation of eight mostly spoiled-rotten rich kids. He was also the catalyst behind the magnificent Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. I had a chance to visit two years ago and was thoroughly impressed with George the professional bookworm. His home is the stuff of my childhood dreams, first for its Gilded Age splendor, and second for its library. I’ve always dreamed of having a library with built-in shelves that extend to the abnormally high ceilings, necessitating the use of a wheeled ladder to reach its uppermost crannies.
Seeing the library was fascinating, but not having the ability to pore over the shelves – or even get remotely close to them – was disappointing. What I learned from docents on site and in the reading I did (of course) prior to the trip was far more interesting: George read about two books a week, averaging 100 books per year, the titles of which he’d kept track of in journals since boyhood.
Given these facts, I realized I’d unwittingly set myself up for a “half George Vanderbilt challenge,” and possibly up for failure if I didn’t act fast. Quick – what compilations of short stories have I been meaning to read? What about juvenile fiction? That still counts!
I’m frantically trying to do more reading and finish this challenge, and it’s not such a bad thing. Sure, my stack of unread New Yorkers is looking a bit pathetic, but at least it’s kept me from getting back into worse time vortices – ahem, WoW.
As of today, I’ve read 13 books toward my goal, and am now therefore only 16% behind.
I’d like to think that George would be proud.