I think this serves as an excellent addition to Scott James’ post from Monday on The Virtue of Unread Books. –Sam
—– —– —–
If you enjoy reading, or would like to, you might find yourself pulling books off your shelf, checking them out from the library, or borrowing them from friends and setting them on the bedside table with the best intentions of reading them. If your life is even a little like mine, your days are packed and by the time you get to that relaxing few moments before sleep, more often than not you drift off before you’ve read a page, or simply crash and think, “tomorrow night.”
Week after week they sit there, silently reproaching you, and sometimes multiplying till you have a tower of great books you want or need to read. You dust them and apologize wordlessly for your neglect, making resolutions to do better. In my case, I have actually had books linger untouched so long that the guilt begins to weigh me down.
When friends ask (not really nagging) how I am enjoying such-and-such a book, I mumble in embarrassment something about not getting very far yet. This adds to my guilt because “too far” is actually having read the dust jacket. Sometimes the guilt becomes so strong I sheepishly hand it back and make excuses about borrowing it another time when I’m not so busy. That day never seems to come.
I used not to feel too badly about it taking me awhile to get through a book. After all, I am a busy Mom. Isn’t reading slowly supposed to be a good way to read? Once I told my family I had been wondering why I had such an unsettled feeling, kind of a vague anxiety hanging around the edges of my consciousness, a sense of some tension building. When I, for some reason, counted up the number of books I was in the middle of reading, I discovered I was in the midst of 13 books – not including the ones I was reading for my children’s schooling. Could this be contributing to my vague feeling of stress?
So here are the tactics I have since worked out to deal with guilt over not reading:
1. I try to keep no more than five books stacked for reading.
2. If a book doesn’t capture my interest after 50 pages, I quit — there are just too many good books in the world waiting for me.
3. If someone presses a book on me I can take a deep breath and say no.
4. If I am overpowered by their persuasion or my courage fails, I remove a book from the stack to add this one.
5. I am not apologetic for having time for only one page of reading.
6. As I drift off to sleep I silently narrate what I read so that if it’s a month before I get back to that book, I find I can track with it without rereading.
The astonishing outcome of this is that I actually manage to read quite a number of books in the course of a year. Procrastination is exhausting. Whether you like to gulp down books or read them at a snail’s pace, keep reading. Persistence is a character builder. Children read when they see their parents read. Besides, fresh ideas keep your mind fertile and re-energize your conversations.
—– —– —–
This post first appeared at Living Books Library on April 20, 2012.
Photograph courtesy of Erin Tegeler Photography.