I’ve always been considered bookish, even when I never thought of myself as a die-hard reader. I don’t remember really reading anything besides for assigned reading in school (although I did devour a lot of Nancy Drews in elementary school). Post-high school I became the regular café lurker in my local Barnes & Noble. Then, through a series of twists and turns in my vagabond life, I made a temporary career as a bookseller for a couple of years. The reasons I am no longer a bookseller don’t really matter and retail really is not my forte, period. Since stepping back from being a professional book person, I’ve realized how much bookselling, book reviewing, and, yes, writing for Book Riot were warping my relationship with books and reading and were actually make me read less. I was putting pressure on myself to read more and more, and only read new books. Or at least books new to me. Somehow, though, with all of the books at my disposal, I was actually reading less. Much less. I went from reading an average of two books a week to maybe a book a month. Maybe.
Now, a year and a half after leaving bookselling, a year after my book review job petered out for good, and after being the least reliable contributor ’round here for several months, I’m reevaluating my reading habits. Like marriage counseling for a rocky relationship, I am dissecting what is and isn’t working for me in regards to reading. Why, for months I would walk into a bookstore and find nothing compelling because I wasn’t shopping for titles the same way I used to? I used to pick books up based on intriguing titles and/or covers, but I found myself recently second guessing my choices too often. Were they too chick lit-y? Would reading this bring me more online panache? What I’m discovering is that I have imagined a peer pressure to always know what the new hot read is, to be able to answer a recommendation question for any genre, to understand every YA series ship on Tumblr.
Here are the truths I have learned about myself:
- I am a rereader. – When I love a book or a series, I don’t want something new that is “like” that book. I want that book. I don’t want to read a new series for “fans of Harry Potter,” I want to reread The Order of the Phoenix. I shouldn’t feel bad for wanting to pull a Mary Russell novel over my head and escape into 1920s England instead of forcing myself to read the stack of galleys I’m still carting around with me. Being a book lover means loving books, and loving something shouldn’t be constrained to a one time read.
- I am a procrastinator. – When I set up a
stupidGoodreads goal of 104 books per year, I’m giving myself a deadline. I suck at deadlines. The minute I set that goal, I’ll start putting it off. It feels like homework, which the lack of doing was responsible for any bad grades I had in high school. I should read as an escape. I should read because I desire to read. Not because I’m trying to hit some arbitrary number.
- I am insecure. – No one (that matters) is actually judging me for not reading enough or for not giving a rat’s ass about The Mothers (nothing against it, heard it’s fantastic, just no desire to read it). If I love Chuck Palahniuk, that’s okay. I know his books resemble each other, some would and have called them derivative. That’s why I end up liking most of them. The world needs lovers of fantasy as much as it needs lovers of literary fiction.
This doesn’t mean I shouldn’t push myself to read outside of my comfort zone. This doesn’t mean I shouldn’t work on reading more diversely. There are plenty of authors of color who are writing things in my wheelhouse. It does mean I need to accept that I am not someone who can read a book a day, or who obsessively keeps up with the hot new titles. Hell, I don’t even get paid to recommend books any longer, so why do I care if I’ve read a single book on the awards lists? I don’t care about those awards anyways. I’ll probably never be at the forefront of bookish news, I can only do my best to respond to things once I am aware. I’ll probably never be the go to for It book recommendations and that’s okay. What I will continue to be is someone who loves her books. Someone who will give away shoes to make more space for books. Someone who will eat ramen and eggs for a month to afford a bookstore shopping spree. And I will learn to be confident in my little niche here in the book world. Because I don’t love all of you because you have the same reading habits or taste that I do, I love this bookish community because we share a love of the written word and the worlds it brings to life.