When Do I Stop Feeling Behind On Reading?

I’m not currently in school: I don’t have assigned reading. And I don’t have any books waiting to be reviewed that I’ve been paid to read. So why do I constantly feel like I’m behind on my reading? I have hundreds of books that I own and haven’t read, and I’ll often peruse the shelves and think “Oooh, I’m so excited to read that one! As soon as I finish the books I have to read, I’ll pick that one up.” But I never seem to get to the end of the books I “have to” read. Books that were sent for review, even if they were unsolicited and are far past the publication date anyway. Books that I got from the library that are due soon—even though there’s no reason I can’t check them out again at a later date.

Lately, I’ve been yearning to go on a reading binge on a particular topic. Reading all deep sea books, for example. That’s a niche interest of mine. Or reading through all the comics and manga I’ve accumulated but haven’t peeked beneath the cover. I want to reread my favourites! I want to read a bunch of queer road trip novels. And “catch up” on all the lesbian YA I’ve heard such good things about. Also: queer lady books that feature dogs! (I’ve got a list going.)

I’ve been trying to cut back on my library holds. But what about those queer middle grade books that are coming out? I had to request the library carry them, of course, and once I’ve requested them, it would be rude not to put them on hold and read them, right? And my shelves aren’t as diverse as I like, so I supplement with diverse books from the library. But somehow the supplementation is the majority of the books I read…

I don’t get stressed out by the amount of books that I own that I haven’t read. But I do get stressed out by the idea of a list of books that I “have to” read right now. I’m not sure why I get into such a mindset. No one is going to reinforce that. No one is going to get angry at me if I throw aside my “required” reading and decide to read every lesbian sci-fi book published before 1990 in chronological order.

I dream of having an empty Must Read shelf. And because I’m starting to seriously consider going back to school, I only have a small window left where that’s feasible. I want to get a little more centred in my reading life and let the buzz of new books pass me by. I don’t have to put every cool book I hear about on hold. Even if it sounds perfect for me, it will still be there in a year. (Books are so patient.) I want to stop accepting ARCs that I’m not interesting in reading right this minute. They might be fantastic books, but seeing them on that Must Read shelf brings me down. And one more thing: I want to read more. Not as a slog, to get through the books I’ve somewhere along the way decided “have to” be read, but as a joyful deep dive. I want the books I read to excite me, challenge me, comfort me—the me I am right this second. I want them to speak to what I want at this moment. Not what I decided I should read six months ago. I need to remember that I don’t read because I have to. I read because I love to.

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