On her Facebook page, author Ania Ahlborn confessed feeling baffled by people who read more than a dozen books a month. (Did you notice the name drop? Yeah, I don’t know her IRL, though.)
Her “confusion” stems only partly from the mere fact of time and how does anyone have that much. Mostly, she wonders “why someone would even want to do such a thing.”
At what point, she asked, does reading become work?
Grad school, for one.
But for those of us no longer constrained by assigned reading lists and literature reviews, how much is too much?
Ahlborn referred to an article in Quartzy by Sally O’Reilly, “Slow Down: The Joy of Books is Lost When We Treat Reading as Self-Improvement.” O’Reilly had me at her first sentence, in which she declared her love of Narnia and hiding out with its Chronicles to get lost in that world. Me too!
But, O’Reilly continued, she buys books, talks about them, reads as many as possible, even writes them – but that “pure immersion in an imagined world” is harder to find.
And then she makes a brilliant point, that the adult world tends to turn everything into a competition, even rendering what we really love a “guilty pleasure.”
I have, on my desktop, a folder with documents that say “Reading Challenge” and then a year. Five documents are in that folder. Each document has a list of book categories or one-line descriptions, like “a debut novel” or “a book that won a major award,” and even “a book with a name in the title” or “a book with a red spine.”
Google “reading challenge.” You’ll see. There are at least half a dozen interesting book challenges you can choose.
Confession: I’m a cheater. If I really don’t like a category, I delete it. And I add categories that suit me: “supernatural horror,” “books you’ve been wanting to read and didn’t quite get to,” “scary books by women writers.”
So why bother with a reading list? Especially one I only casually follow?
Well, I like lists. I do.
And sometimes, in my effort to creatively re-define “book that involves travel to an island,” I read something I might not have read otherwise, or at least not yet.
And I like to keep track of what I read so that, three years later, I can look down the list and remember what I was doing when I discovered Ania Ahlborn, or finally read Rebecca, or re-read (for the ninth time) Tolkien.
Inevitably, though, there are a few books that strike an “oh yeah! I remember that!” moment or worse, simple puzzlement.
O’Reilly notes that the books she lingered over have stayed in her mind, while the ones she read in a distracted hurry have not.
She’s right – that’s exactly it for me. Oh, some books are forgettable. Some books don’t make the list because I didn’t finish them. But some books that I’ve let slip my mind didn’t deserve such shoddy treatment.
So here are my new reading challenge categories: Read three books by a single author back to back; re-read a book you read last year; read a book twice in a row; read that book you’ve been wanting to read and haven’t quite gotten to.”
Ready? Set? Go!
Oh right. Not a race.
See you in Narnia.