I have been full of the Thinks all day, you guys. I’m not sure what did it. Was it plowing through a short book this afternoon? Was it some strange discussion I only half remember having last night? Maybe it’s the 15 inches of snow on the ground after a magically warm weekend. Perhaps it’s just hormones. Or maybe I ate something I shouldn’t have.
Last week, I had a conversation with someone about my giant TBR list. I told her, this fellow reader, that I wanted to focus on reading more on my list but the second book on it was Anna Karenina, long and Russian. “You don’t HAVE to read anything,” she said and, yes, I knew that she meant well and, yes, I knew that was true but I really almost snapped. I want to read Anna Karenina. I’ve heard so many people rave about it and I want to know for myself whether or not it is any good. I bemoaned the fact that I want to read all of the books! (This is a near constant bemoaning in my life, so much so that once, when I was bemoaning, my mother turned to my husband and said, “You have to live with that??”)
So, why is it that we read what we read? There are a lot of factors that go into what I choose to read. Sometimes I want to read something because it’s a classic. There’s no shame in that just like there is no shame in NOT wanting to read the classics. I’m sitting on an English degree and part of the reason that I decided on that degree is, frankly, because I read The Age of Innocence and The Sun Also Rises and those books meant something to me and sent me down a road of finding more books that would mean something to me. But classics aren’t the only things I read. I choose other books because I keep hearing about them or they sound interesting or funny. I choose them because the cover grabbed my attention or even just the title. I choose them because some outside force encouraged me to, either by mentioning the book in something else or putting it in my path over and over until I could not ignore it anymore.
We all choose different books and we all choose them differently. What matters is that you not ruin your reading life by filling it with Stuff You Don’t Care About simply because someone else thinks that you should. I don’t mean the classic. I don’t mean fluff. I don’t mean romances. I don’t even mean whatever the NOW book it. I mean any book that you just don’t want to read. (Confession: Forcing my way through Ender’s Game because book club. Book club will be the only time I ever do this.) Read what you want to read when you want to read it. If you put too much pressure on yourself, you won’t enjoy yourself. Challenge yourself if you enjoy it, don’t if you don’t. By all means, try new things but don’t beat yourself over the head with them.
And that’s something else, isn’t it? The trying something new. After listening to so many people rave about romance and how it’s so great if you just give it a chance, I gave it a chance. A few chances. Varied chances. I just couldn’t do it. I put romance aside but I wasn’t done trying new things. Next I tried Westerns and found that they were great listening for hot summer days and decided that I wanted to try more. Now I am delving into some science fiction and fantasy with my book club because they are both genres I never really tried.
Listening to the Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris has probably been my favorite book experience so far this year. A couple of years ago I put aside the series because it was “too fluffy” for me. At the time it probably was but right now it is exactly what I need to get through winter driving north of Detroit, where traffic is thicker than I’m used too and way more “head in sphincter.” What are these books? If they are romance, they go against my other experiences with romance. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t listening to the books because I miss the show. Does it matter how I got there? Or does it matter more that I feel less like murdering someone while I drive?
Then there are recommendations. I never know how to treat them because I have so many books that I want to read on my own. I also don’t have a very good track record with them. An ex suggested that I read American Psycho because it was his favorite book and I hated it. He suggested I try Watchmen to break into comics but it wasn’t what led me to comics at all. Hubby suggested Jonathan Livingston Seagull which was about the lamest thing I ever read on a late day. A coworker suggested her favorite book and it was completely tainted by the death of my car. (I swear, a main character was dying the moment I spotted my deceased cat. Can’t make that shit up.)
What I am long windedly saying is this: Your reading life is your reading life. You can make it anything that you want it to be. You can make it the energy bar you eat on the treadmill or the wine you drink after a hard day. Whatever you do, make it yours. Haters gonna hate.