After I closed the cover of The Life We Bury, I visited Goodreads to click I’m finished. I read one book! I’m ahead of schedule! Woohoo! Look at me go. This year, I’ve pledged to read 12 books. Surely I can read one book a month.
In 2014, I read 17 books after pledging only 12 (overachiever!). So in 2015, I upped my goal to 24, which I accomplished (go, me!). In 2016, I thought I’d go for more: 35. That’s more than 1 book every 2 weeks.
I only read 23.
The year began leisurely enough, and with some of my binge weekends, during which I read books like I eat chips — endlessly, one right after the other. But I also had droughts, as I sometimes do, during which the to-be-read stack stares at me, unable to implore me to crack a cover.
I read off and on through the year, but didn’t panic until Autumn — that’s when the ticker tally got bigger every time I visited the site: 9 books behind schedule, 10, 11, 12, eventually 13.
I actually felt pressure to meet my goal, the arbitrary number I pulled out of thin air prior to having more work hours and things to do each day and week. I still thought I could do it, even in the beginning of December. I visited the library and roamed, as I’m known to do, for more than an hour, choosing books that caught my eye. I brought home a stack to complete the challenge and then some.
A couple of weeks later, having only read one of them, I perused the books on my want to read Goodreads shelf. Could I find enough that were only 100 or 200 pages? A pamphlet? A picture book?
That’s when I realized I had a problem. And it was at that moment I decided to be and remain a loser.
There was no way to read 12 books in two busy weeks prior to and in the midst of the holidays.
There was no reason to read 12 books in two weeks, other than I said I would on a site that loves books, like I love books, but I simply can’t love that many books and still do the other things I want and need to do.
Most importantly, there was no joy in hurrying to read 12 books in two weeks, so I didn’t.
And I won’t.
When this year’s challenge asked how many books I’d read, I chose 12. I’ll probably read more, but if I don’t, it’s OK. It’s good to have the goal of reading more books, but not at the expense of the joy of the activity itself. And hey, Goodreads, you have no idea how many articles I read online, in papers and magazines, etc. I’m always reading the words, and writing some, too. I just don’t often have time it seems for 300-page tomes, as much as I’d like to.
My competitive self took a hit, but did so in stride. She who fists pumps after winning a round of Pictionary against children actually went along with me on the whole let’s not make reading a competition thing. She agrees: the reason to read is to savor the words, to get lost in language and story, to connect with characters and parts of myself. I can’t do that if I’m McReading as fast as I can. If I do so, I get the same kind of results I get at the golden arches: some semblance of edible, but filling or nourishing? I think not.
Only 11 books to go for the year, but in my mind, I’m already a winner. I simply pick up a book, slowly turn the pages and take my time to read each work with the care the author put into creating it. Then rest, reopen, repeat — read and savor each experience.