A Willful Woman…

Thoughts about books from a romance addict.

Decluttering My Reading

on June 11, 2014

I follow an interesting decluttering blog called “Clutterbusting.” One of the ideas that comes up regularly is accessing your feelings about something you love — for example, a favorite shirt that you wear all the time. You think about it and there’s no question in your mind that yes, you love that item and want to keep it. Then you compare that feeling to items that make you uncertain.

(One of the things I don’t like about the blog is that it never examines these issues in the context of money, or the environment. I lost a lot of respect for the author when he started selling clutterbusting mugs. But never mind that right now.)

This idea came to mind yesterday, when I’d just gone to the library and was on my way to have a workout. I normally read my kindle at the gym, because it’s easy to hold and turn the pages with one hand. But I had just picked up Sixth Grave on the Edge and… I wanted to read it. It was a heavy hardcover, not at all convenient, but damn it, it was the only book available I actually wanted to read. So I did.

I wish I knew how to always have that feeling of knowing what I want to read. I’ve gotten much, much better at shutting out voices that recommend books I have very little real interest in. But the combination of so much information, so many readily accessible books, and the obligation to review is death to simple pleasure reading lately.

(My son is almost done with school, and was talking happily about not having to do “AR reading” anymore, and just reading for pleasure. At first that struck me as a little funny, because he can actually read pretty much anything he wants now. And yet there’s still that distinction between the books he has to read and the books he reads for pleasure, even if they’re the exact same books. This is just what I’m experiencing as a reviewer right now.)

I’ll often download a library book on the basis of someone’s recommendation and then later read the blurb or the first page and realize, I would never have wanted to read this book. And though it’s easy and free for me, its a waste of time and library resources… and just generally clutters up my life. I’ll also download a library book and then find that I don’t have the time or energy for it right now. I’ll request a review book that sounds really good or is by a favorite author, and then not want to read it because I have to.

Things really came to a head for me recently. I didn’t analyze it, but I think now that it’s because so many things that once gave me pleasure are no longer a part of my life, for various reasons. All I knew consciously was I could not stand to read one more obligatory book and all I wanted was some short categories about horrible heroes and suffering heroines. I zipped through 3-4 categories per day, and that’s not counting the ones I just skimmed for the “good parts.” (I’m starting to wonder if these books give me a way to vicariously feel anger and sadness that I have trouble accessing otherwise. Emotional surrogacy.)

After about a week, I felt able to move on to more cerebral reads. I read Rose Lerner’s scary political romance, Sweet Disorder, and loved it. I took a chance on a novel, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, and didn’t love it, but enjoyed the funny, sharp writing. After I finish Sixth Grave, I have an epistolary novel that Liz Mc2 recommended. A friend loaned me a Harlequin with amnesia for the next time that craving strikes.

I also managed to get one book reviewed and an H&H piece written, both with enjoyment. But I started another review book and it’s like pulling teeth to read it. I need to come to a decision about it soon, and accept the fact that the decision may be, “this is a perfectly acceptable book, but I still don’t want to finish it.” And maybe this will eventually lead to losing my NetGalley auto-approvals, and I’m just going to have to accept that too.

The beauty of pleasure reading is that you can stop any time it’s no longer giving you pleasure. And it’s pretty easy to know how you feel… like how you feel about that favorite shirt.


10 responses to “Decluttering My Reading

  1. smexybooks says:

    Enjoyed reading this. I am totally there sometimes 🙂

  2. Miss Bates says:

    This is great and strikes a chord … and will strike with many others.

  3. Liz Mc2 says:

    I have a library book out that I requested but think I’m turning out not to be in the mood for right now, and it’s so hard to give myself permission to just return it and not feel bad. I consciously made a decision not to do anything with blogging that would make me feel (more) obligated, because my TBR makes me feel obligated enough. Nothing like turning fun into homework! I’m so grateful for people who request and blog about new books, because I like reading those reviews but I don’t want to do them. I’m glad you’re choosing fun for a while.

    I am sometimes surprised by what I respond to emotionally in my reading, and like you I wonder if I’m processing some feelings I’m not even aware of. Sometimes I figure it out and sometimes I don’t want to look.

    Lovely post!

  4. Great post, Willaful. I have those library books that I’ve renewed once, then again, and then HAVE to go back, because our system only allows two renewals. And then there are those books that I’ve just picked up from the weekly library run a day or two ago, that somehow make it to the top of the pile, jumping right over all those others with their expiration dates threatening. I’m a bit afraid to look at how much I’ve paid in overdue fees the past year.

    But I’m not always right in my choices–sometimes those books I think are going to satisfy don’t, and other times I finally force myself to buckle down and tackle one that’s been on my pile for more than a month, and find myself drawn completely in. That second one is the best feeling of all, being surprised by one I thought I wasn’t going to capture me…

    • willaful says:

      That’s what makes it complicated… sometimes those iffy books turn out to be just awesome. Which is why I don’t want to give up taking chances and trying stuff out. Finding the balance is hard, though.

  5. Kaetrin says:

    I feel far less guilt about library books than review books. I don’t borrow very often but more often than not, I end up returning them unread.

    I changed my reviewing last year so that I can read books without reviewing them now and that has helped me. Now I can have a “just for me” read occasionally which is nice. One day if reviewing isn’t fun, I’ll stop but for now it mostly is something I enjoy.

    Glad you have been enjoying your reading whatever its purpose.

  6. Nicola O. says:

    Oh, I totally relate! I attempted to deal with this by not accepting more review books, but I haven’t been completely successful at that. Maybe my strategy is to just embrace the DNF.

    • willaful says:

      I’ve been pretty good at it.. I go and look, but manage to talk myself out of requesting anything. Unfortunately, this has not made it any easier to catch up, because I just don’t want to read/review what I have…

Comments welcome! But FYI, WordPress has extremely good spam filters.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Something More

my extensive reading

Blue Castle Considerations

thoughtations, contemplations, fulminations & other random things from books...

...Burns Through Her Bookshelf

Voracious reader, book lover, spastic blogger, audiologist. These things are some of me, but not the sum of me.

Queer Romance Month

because love is not a subgenre

Cate Marsden.

Love and Zombies. And books. And infrequent updates.

Book Thingo

Reading (mostly) romance books down under


...barely skimming the surface

Olivia Dade

Sex. Banter. Nerdery. Love.

Flight into Fantasy

Romance, speculative fiction, and YA book reviews, book chatter, and random silliness

Her Hands, My Hands

The vagaries of my mind, the products of my hands. Not always safe for work.


64 books. 1 Champion. Get your game on.

Stop the STGRB Bullies

Your hypocrisy is showing

Blue Moon

Audiobook reviews and book reviews. Occasional opining.

Miss Bates Reads Romance

Miss Bates is Austen's loquacious spinster in Emma. No doubt Miss Bates read romances ... here's what she would've thought of them.

%d bloggers like this: