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Chainreading

Jacquelyn Bengfort

Not so long ago, I got in a bad habit of not reading. I know this admission might shock those who knew me as a child (most especially my parents, who find it hilarious that I still don't know how to get from my hometown to Fargo, ditto my hometown to my aunt and uncle's house), but it's true: I haven't been reading much, for quite some time. Blame Twitter, blame smartphones, blame a minor television addiction--but it's simply a fact. But I've found the best way to overcome this particular inertia is to have several reading projects going at a time. To wit, I have my New York Times Bestseller Project and the bookclub I joined at the beginning of the year, both of which continually provide me with no-brainer next books. I also try to keep up with current lit, adding books I hear or see reviewed in a variety of venues to my library cue and reading them as they come in to my local branch.

I recently added another gambit/project to my "a reader in motion stays in motion" bag of tricks: the alphabet. I'm working my way through the stacks at my library, choosing one book at a time based on the author's last name, starting with one from A and working my way, letter by letter, to Z.

Won't lie, I'm deliberately picking short ones.

The first two I read were A Death in the Family, the Pulitzer-winning posthumous novel by James Agee. Then I read The Development, a series of nine linked stories by John Barth. For short reviews, be sure to stop back at the end of the quarter, when I sum up my most recent three months in books.

Next up: Double Indemnity by James M. Cain, Cosmopolis by Don DeLillo, and Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlife by David Eagleman. You know, alongside reading Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo and Bark by Lorrie Moore for bookclub, The Song of Bernadette by Franz Werfel and Drivin' Woman by Elizabeth Chevalier for the bestseller project, and the two or three other random selections I have out at the moment, plus a healthy dose of board books for the benefit of the pre-reader set in the house.

Do you have any secrets for maintaining forward momentum in your reading that you'd care to share?