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Our Reading Lives

When You Get to the End of Your Reading List

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Jan Rosenberg

Staff Writer

Jan Rosenberg is a playwright, novelist, and screenwriter living in NYC. She received her B.A in Playwriting & Fiction from The New School. She writes plays about things that scare her. I.E: she has written lots of plays. Her play 'What's Wrong With You' was a Eugene O'Neill Semi-Finalist, and her work has been developed with several theater companies. She has written reviews of Broadway shows for Show Business Weekly and Theater Is Easy. Her pilot episode 'Treat Yourself' is a dark comedy about Eating Disorder recovery. When she's not reading or writing, she's usually coloring, making out with dogs, or playing video games. She worked as at The Strand Bookstore for 4 days, where she discovered she had a fear of standing on ladders. Twitter: @kickthejan

The eternal plight of the book lover is knowing you will never discover all the books you want to read in a single lifetime. But that doesn’t stop us from trying.

I’ll speak for myself. I’m a compulsive person. I’m impatient. I’m an obsessive book buyer. If I finish my book at work or at a coffee shop and have nothing to read for the train ride home, my anxiety shoots through the roof. The thought of being without a book for even a small amount of time is enough to induce flu-like symptoms. So in order to prepare myself for these book deprivation periods, I always make sure to have my To-Read list on me. You know, just in case I find myself lost in the woods or accidentally lock myself inside a Starbucks bathroom.

I started using Goodreads to keep track of what I want to read. A few years ago, my To-Read list was somewhere around two hundred. Slowly but surely, the list grew smaller, but it was still huge. And, admittedly, bloated. I began performing ritualistic cleanses to my list, purging myself of the books that I wasn’t truly excited to read. Because there are so many books, and only so little time.

This year, my list dropped down to double digits. All of a sudden my obsessive nature was triggered, and I became determined to complete my list. I wanted the satisfaction of finally reading everything I wanted to read. And it finally happened, last week. I did it. I’d reached the summit.

My victory dance lasted maybe thirty seconds before the horror set in. What do I read now!? I was out of back-ups. I hadn’t planned for this. I had nothing to read!

In my desperation, I ran to the bookstore and plowed through the shelves. I was so frantic that I picked up a few titles that I didn’t really want. And as a consequence, I began and quickly put down several books. For a few days I experienced Book Dysphoria. (I mad that term up: you’re welcome). I felt like I couldn’t focus or engage with anything I was reading. Panic set in. Was this permanent? Had I ruined myself as a reader? (Disclaimer: I’ve been known to overreact, at times).

Long story short, the recovery time was quick. I naturally found my next book: Tiffany McDaniel’s The Summer that Melted Everything. And I’ve been slowly discovering new titles. My To-Read list has six books on it. I’m sure it’ll shoot back up to astronomical proportion. But in the end, numbers don’t matter. The list doesn’t matter. There will always be an abundance of books to read—thank goodness. Being a reader is to be on an eternal quest with no final destination. So let’s all relax, and enjoy the view.