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.