Thursday, February 18, 2010

How to read.

Reading is such a personal thing, I find. It’s not just our different tastes that make this so, but each person experiences the act of reading differently. We even approach it differently.

I’ve always been someone who devours books, reading whatever it is to which my mood drives me. A biography set during the Resistance in Europe in the midst of World War II or a cozy mystery, very often a classic I missed in my studies or a random piece of modern fiction I picked up at the airport or at Costco… whatever I felt like at the end of the previous book, I’d take down from the shelf and dig into.

A couple years ago I got ambitious and decided to try a different approach. With much zeal I undertook first one list, then another, eventually adding a partial third list to the stack. I was determined.

I collected most of the books from one list, while reading dozens from the second. I was moderating a book club which followed one of the lists, doing so virtually on my own for a while. At first it was great because the discussions were so rich and deep, but soon I became overwhelmed keeping up with the posts AND the reading (and the complaints that came in back then). The lists soon became chores as well, so weighted down with it all was I.

Suddenly, it wasn’t so much fun any more. I wasn’t reading what I wanted, but what I felt I SHOULD read. Some people are driven by lists, and I commend them. But was loosing my joy for the demand. And yes, it was a demand I put on myself. I’d also committed to reading a huge amount of books the last two years, so that was even more pressure.

To counter act this and regain some of that joy, this year I decided to just read what I’m in the mood for and have fun with all of it. I’m loving it! I do read from those lists, but only if I feel like it. I had to get out of the mindset of being bound to something so that I could actually dive into that very thing. However, the key is that when I feel like reading something as far away from those lists as is imaginable, I don’t feel pressure or guilt that I'm not doing as I should – I just go for it.

And now I’m in the midst of reading The Catcher in the Rye, a book I’ve never had an urge to read (and in fact have avoided), because it’s on all three lists and particularly because as a well educated woman, it seemed a gap in my knowledge. I’ve loved several of the other books I've taken on so far this year, so I thought reading something that likely I won’t enjoy, but will appreciate on certain levels was a good way to do it. That and I made it “homework,” as in I gave myself a deadline. (So I won’t have to suffer forever.) Hee-hee!

Anyway, I’m so glad to have reading be a pleasurable part of my journey again. It’s been a vital part of my life since I was very young, and I want to keep it always a delight. Happy reading!


gbpackergirl76 said...

I know exactly what you mean. It's easy to get into a book club or list and feel like you are forced to read books. I find that one book club is good. Broadens your horizons a bit, and one book a month that might be something different is good. Life has been so busy that most of my books lately have been audio books in the car or at home when I'm cleaning and puttering around the apartment. I try and allow for at least one hour a day reading, and since I need to train for a bike ride, I've been reading while I bike at the Y. It's a twofer! Happy reading indeed!

Rebecca Curtis said...

Reading while I exercise is something I do as well. I like book clubs and doing lists to help me improve my reading range but sometimes I have to pick up that sappy romance or easy chick lit and remind myself why I love to read. I have noticed though that I can't spend too much time reading "Easier" books because I get bored of them.

whichwaydidshego said...

Being a visual learner, I love the idea of an audio book, but in reality it doesn't work so well for me. My mum loves it, though.

My book club was two books a month for a couple years, but then we changed it - thank goodness! It was great when there was lots of discussion, but when that fell off it was too hard to comprehend - especially when it wasn't even a book for which you voted. I'm really glad yours works, packergirl. I'm trying to keep up with some of the books from my group this year. We'll see!

Rebecca - I hear you with the boredom of the "easier" books. Truly.

Courtney said...

How are you liking Catcher? B is reading his short stories now, which I intend to reread, but having read Catcher in 8th grade, I am afraid my adult perspective will ruin the joy and admiration I have for the book. That said, I think he is a brilliant writer and cannot wait to re-read his other stuff.