Slow and Steady: On Building a Relaxing Reading List

I would like to think I am not the only one who convinces herself that summers are endless, thus making those months the perfect time to conquer her TBR pile. And look, I may not be an athlete, but reading I can do for sport, and the start of every summer I tell myself it will be the summer! The one where I plant a giant flag that says “R.I.P. TBR PILE!” on my Everest. Of course, what actually happens every summer is that I set myself an impossible reading goal, fall promptly behind schedule, and proceed to hate myself the moment the leaves turn orange.

So, this year, I decided to construct a reading list around making myself feel better. Whatever else I manage to squeeze in, I am hoping to read five books for the following five reasons:

1. I tend to tear through books a lot. It’s not because I’m racing to meet an essay deadline, or even because the plot is just that fast-paced. Mostly, I am compensating for the moments my eyes keep travelling over the same line repeatedly. I don’t know if there is an argument to be made for reading the book slower—I feel like I do savour books, whatever my reading speed—but honestly, for once, I’d like to experience reading a book without being angry at myself for my inability to concentrate. If I read faster, I’d like it to be because of the book and not because, “UGH STUPID BRAIN I MUST PUNISH YOU NOW!” Reading options for this exercise include Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho and The The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni—books that are sure to enchant, no matter how many times I go over the same line.

2. Sort of related to my previous point, I’d like to re-read one series that I raced through, this time paying attention to the way the story unfolds. Re-reading is a great way, I think, of getting better at your own writing. To that end, I think I may choose Maureen Johnson’s Shades of London series. Plus, it will be a nice refresher for when the last book comes out.

3. Sometimes, I need to remind myself that I’m reading these books, not because I have to, but for the same reason I bought them in the first place—because I want to. Often, I forget this while reading something long. I just want the book to end, so I can move on to the next book on my pile, the one that’s staring at me, glaring at me, pawing at me with its creepy paper hands. (No, really, that’s what it feels like when I look over at my TBR pile.) This one is also a matter of slowing down, but it is more about focussing on the book in my hand, rather than the two on the shelf. Pretty sure I will have to pick an audiobook to ensure that I take my time. Perhaps now is a good time to say a long farewell to the world Laini Taylor created in her Daughter of Smoke and Bone series.

4. While writing my previous point, I realized just how many series I am following. It seems that even though I race through books, I do not really want to say goodbye to those fictional worlds. I suppose, there’s no harm then, in adding one more series to my list. Hello, Shira Glassman’s Mangoverse novels. Pleased to meet y—aha! You are now in my evil reader clutches!

5. Then again, perhaps the true test of my “Slow and Steady” plan is to pick up a stand-alone that I know will be a wrench to finish, and instead, take my time with it. Perhaps, Roshani Chokshi’s The Star-Touched Queen or maybe, Mariko Tamaki’s Saving Montgomery Sole.

So, what are your strategies for relaxed reading? How do you try and slow down? Or do strategies stress you out even further? I worry this may be the case for me, when I do start reading these picks of mine …

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