Now, you may be looking at the title and wondering if I’m crazy. I often wonder that about myself too. However, I don’t think this is the deciding factor on that front.
I mentioned this in my June Wrap Up post, but I’ve started to read for quality over quantity. It’s something I’m still working on and will probably continue having to actively think about for a while, but I’m slowly starting to find the benefits of it. That has turned into allowing myself days when I don’t read at all. It almost pains me to say that, like I’m worried someone’s going to come and revoke my metaphorical book nerd card for admitting it.
I think it has become especially hard to give myself reading breaks since I joined the bookstagram and book blogging community. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret it one bit and I wouldn’t change my experience here for anything, but I do think it made me put more pressure on myself to read more. Now, I absolutely want to read more. I just don’t want to feel like I have to read more. It’s like when you’re planning on cleaning your room, and then your parent comes in and tells you to do it, and all of a sudden the last thing you want to do is clean your room. I want to read because I want to, not because there’s an external (and imaginary) voice saying, “This is something you must do if you want to keep your place in this community.”
Up until last month, I was deliberately forcing myself to read every day and to plow through books, because I had this idea in my head that to be a “good” reader and blogger, I had to read 10+ books a month. For me, there was this perception that if everyone else can do it, I can and should too, and if I wasn’t, then I was doing something wrong.
Real quick fact: that’s bullshit. Pardon my French, but, for one, there’s no such thing as a “good” reader. If you’re reading what you want, when you want, as much as you want, then you’re a good reader. And second, there’s no reason you should use others to set your expectations for yourself, in this or in any aspect of your life. Like I said, I would love to be able to read more and blow through 15 books a month, but the reality is that I can’t and, honestly, don’t really want to. I’m just too busy with other things and too dedicated to sleep to prioritize hours upon hours of reading every day. Would I like to have all the time in the world to read? Absolutely. I always say that my dream job is getting paid to read. But that’s not where I am right now and have to accept it.
Another thing I’m learning as I slow down with reading is that I’m enjoying my books more. This really started with The World in the Evening in June. The book was a gift from my cousin, and he told me that it was his favorite book, so when I picked it up, I really wanted to give it all my attention and energy. That meant that there were times reading it didn’t feel right. I did try to speed through at the beginning, but I found myself not enjoying it, and not because I didn’t like it. Something about it just seemed wrong when I tried to read it without all my focus, like I wasn’t doing it justice or giving it all it deserved. It wasn’t that I didn’t like the story and wanted to stop – I did like it and wanted to keep reading – but I just couldn’t get into it at all. What I ultimately did was take a step back, didn’t pick it up for a couple days, and made sure I was reading slowly when I did start it again. And it did wonders. Suddenly I was engaged and invested, and I started to understand what it was about the book that my cousin loved.
Some books require more attention, and that’s just how it is. For instance, most of us can’t dive into a Shakespeare play and understand every line the first time around, let alone if you’re trying to read it at 200 words a minute. I’ve always known this, but always assumed it only applied for classics or books I had to read for school, and that’s just not the case. I’m definitely noticing it more now that I’m reading more adult novels, rather than just YA books. Now, don’t think I’m saying that YA books can’t be deep and insightful and beautifully written, and that adult books have to be that way. I’m not. I am saying that YA books do tend to be more action-packed and fast-paced, which leads to a generally faster and more surface reading experience. And that’s not a bad thing, it’s just a style and it’s as valid as any other. I think that was a mistake I made when I read The Secret History last month. I tried to read it like a YA thriller, even though that’s not at all what it is. I think you have to understand that different styles and genres read differently and you can’t treat them all the same. Some books need to be devoured, while others need to be digested.
The most important thing this change has taught me is that, if I slow down even just a little, I appreciate and enjoy what I’m reading way more. Yes, I can still read a book in a day or two and absolutely adore it, but if I take a little more time with it, I catch all the nuances. It’s not necessarily close reading, like they tell you to do in school, but it’s just giving the text a little more attention. I’ve found that it really completes my reading experience and gives the book a new perspective and depth that I hadn’t been noticing. Now, the flip side of this is that I notice more things that I don’t like, but even that adds to the book. I don’t expect any book to be perfect and seeing its issues means I have more to think about and discuss, whether I write a review or not. It makes reading more interesting and intellectual, even when I’m not trying to read with an analysis in mind.
What do you think? Do you prefer books you can read quickly, in one sitting, or ones you can take your time with and think a little more about? Have you found a good middle ground? How do you keep reading from becoming another chore?
Keep reading (for fun!),