The case for reading (etc.) how we want
Here’s how I used to read.
Once I started a book, I had to finish it. Even if it was awful, even if I felt nothing or felt terrible. And also, I could only read one book at a time. Also, only fiction. Also, only fiction from the genre du jour.
Pick book. Read. Finish. Repeat.
Gah! Where did I ever get these ludicrous ideas and why did I persist in it for so long? (If you’re doing anything remotely similar please stop now I beg you!)
Because here’s what would happen. I would start reading a book, not really want to read it, but feel like I had to before I could start something else so I would end up not reading at all.
Can you imagine?
I cringe now thinking back to the time I wasted and all the things I could have been reading.
Now things are so different. I currently have more books in my queue than I can possibly read before they expire and I’ve started no fewer than six of them.
I couldn’t be more thrilled.
It’s so exciting to wonder what I’m going to pick back up each time. I love this permission I’ve granted myself to just go with it. Read what I’m in the mood for. Finish it or not. Repeat.
Sometimes if I want to want to read a book badly enough I’ll give it a second chance. Especially if it’s something recommended or something I feel as a writer and book person I should have read. These are harder to give up, but in the end, I remind myself why I read.
I read because I love it. I read because it’s fun. I read because I’m interested.
So if what I’m reading doesn’t fit into that I just have to move on.
Oh, and when I say “pick back up” I don’t really mean that literally because the only thing I’m literally picking up is my device. Another way I used to be super rigid. I was a purist - actual print books only; no ebooks for me.
Until upon preparing for a trip abroad, I realized my newfound liberation of reading multiple books at a time meant that I would also have to pack and carry multiple books at a time. Not ideal. So I begrudgingly bought a Kindle and haven’t looked back.
I’ve had three Kindles in fact. The first went on the fritz so Amazon replaced it; the second I left on a train I took across Germany. I was heartbroken at this, mostly because I still had a more than a week left of my trip and what the heck was I going to read?!?
Happily, I found a bookstore on a walk in Hamburg that had an English section. I purchased a cheap copy of Cider House Rules, which I ended up adoring and probably wouldn’t have read otherwise. That walk, that bookstore, that book is now one of my favorite memories.
I purchased Kindle three once home, but eventually it was replaced by an iPad I received as a gift. At first, I thought what do I need an iPad for? My Kindle works just fine, I insisted, so it took me a bit to fully convert. But once I did, I had to admit the iPad has a much nicer screen to read from, which is one of the primary complaints I hear about e-reading.
Look at me; evolving.
And I can’t help but see it’s this openness that I’ve cultivated that has kept the fire of my love of reading burning. Do you believe I would still be excited if I was reading one awful book at a time?
Of course not. I wasn’t excited about it while I was doing it.
As with so much then, relaxing the rules we have for ourselves once in a while it seems, is the way to get excited or stay excited about the things we love.
Who would’ve thought?
Speaking of excited, I’ve decided 2020 will be the year of the book! After cataloging what I’ve read so far - because I love to make lists! - I realized I’ve actually read quite a lot already this year, which inspired me to keep going.
The list also inspired me, due to the utter lack of fiction on it, to find good novels to read. Because while I’ve developed a great love for reading non-fiction, it cannot compare to the magic of getting lost in a made-up world.
How I miss spending hours broadening not just my knowledge, but my imagination as I create the characters and their worlds in my mind. There is nothing like it.
So in the spirit of that, here are the novels in my queue:
The Signature of All Things (Elizabeth Gilbert)
Beloved (Toni Morrison)
Run, River (Joan Didion)
Things Fall Apart (Chinua Achebe)
Normal People (Sally Rooney)
The Hours (Michael Cunningham)