Our Reading Lives

Keeping Up a Bookish Lifestyle Without Actually Reading

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Patricia Thang

Senior Contributor

Patricia Thang is an educator located in Los Angeles. Though a native Angeleno through and through, her heart also belongs to Tokyo, where much of her family is from. Besides books, she is an enthusiastic devourer of many things, including podcasts, television, and J-pop. She realizes there’s not enough time in the world to consume all of that content, but she’s trying anyway. Other endeavors to which she has dedicated herself include cuddling her dogs until they’re annoyed and taste-testing every vegan ice cream she can find. Twitter: @aintnopthang

So according to my calendar, it’s nearly the end of the year, which means it’s been something like eight months since I’ve been able to really read outside of a couple pages here and there from books I’ve all but abandoned partway through. I know there are plenty of other readers in a similar boat, so I won’t get into the details of why (I mean, we all know why). Instead, let’s talk about some of the things I have been doing that have been keeping me feeling like my usual bookish self, even without the actual reading. And if you’ve been struggling too, I hope that some of these ideas can help in some small way, like they have for me.

Buying Books

First off, just because I’m no longer reading doesn’t mean I am not going to stop acquiring books (lolsob). Despite the fact that the perennial problem of buying books faster than I can read them is exacerbated a hundredfold, I’ve told myself it’s okay— good, in fact—to keep purchasing a couple books here and there as I am able in support of some of my favorite independent bookstores that are no doubt having a tough time right now.

Outside of buying books, I’ve also continued to borrow ebooks from my library as usual, though we shall overlook the fact that I’ve been letting all of them automatically return themselves after sitting in my ereader unread for the 21-day borrow period.

Organizing Books

Obviously, the more books I buy, the more space I need to find to be able to keep them. That combined with the need to transform my desk space to be able to work from home long-term has meant I’ve had to get serious about reorganizing. I am still far from finding a perfect system—I’ve mostly just stuffed my shelves to the brim, shoving books in at all sorts of angles to get them all to fit—but I’ve at least succeeded in clearing away the stray books piled randomly on every surface in my work area. I’d call that a step in the right direction!

I have, however, managed to find a little more success organizing my books in the digital space. I’m personally not a Goodreads user, but I catalog my books and track my reading in multiple spreadsheets, on LibraryThing, and, most recently, on the new site The StoryGraph (it’s still in beta, but it’s super cool and you should check it out, especially if you’re into data and charts!). And I’ve decided to take on the major project of overhauling my organizational systems on these platforms. Because while I’m not reading my books, I can still have fun sorting through and rediscovering them.

Watching Adaptations

One of the last books I managed to read early this year was Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere. Reading the book and then immediately marathoning the Hulu series adaptation was what kept me busy that first week or so of staying home. After that, I quickly turned to my most trusty comfort watches, which include such obvious choices as the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Clueless, and the 2005 Pride & Prejudice movie starring Keira Knightley. While new content continues to be somewhat more difficult to get through for me right now, I’ve also managed to make my way through more recent adaptations like Watchmen, My Brilliant Friend, and NOS4A2. And, of course, I’ve got a humongous list of other movie and television adaptations to get to eventually that will certainly keep me occupied for a while.

Listening to Bookish Podcasts

Usually I’m someone who has podcasts playing every possible moment I can, but that has decreased significantly these past months. Even so, I’ve got a select number of podcasts that I do continue to keep up with, a good fraction of which are, of course, bookish in some way. Here are a few of my current favorites:

Home Cooking

Home Cooking is one of a number of podcasts that was created in direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s back with a new batch of episodes through the end of the year! Samin Nosrat (author of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat) and Hrishikesh Hirway (podcast creator and host of Song Exploder and The West Wing Weekly) answer listener questions about cooking and talk to guests about their relationships to food. Not only does the podcast provide great practical information that you can use in your own kitchen, but the banter between these two friends is also an absolute joy to have in your ears.

cover image of The Chronicles of Now podcast

The Chronicles of Now

More than just a podcast, The Chronicles of Now is a larger project in which various authors (including Roxane Gay, Curtis Sittenfeld, Tommy Orange, and more) are commissioned to write original short stories based on headlines in today’s news. Each episode of the podcast contains a narrated version of one of the stories from the project, paired with great sound design for a more immersive experience close to audio drama, as well as a short conversation between host Ashely C. Ford and the author digging deeper into the story and the news that inspired it. Though season 1 has concluded, I’m hopeful for a season 2, and the project is ongoing with new stories each week on their website. If listening to the podcast leaves you wanting more, you can become a subscriber to support the project, gain unlimited access to all the content, and even receive a printed edition of the year’s stories (depending on subscription level).

cover image of Teen Creeps podcast

Teen Creeps

This podcast has been around for a few years now, but I recently discovered it browsing shows that would put me in a Halloween-y mood leading up to the holiday. In it, comedians Kelly Nugent and Lindsay Katai revisit and discuss teen horror and mystery novels from their childhood. I’ve slowly been working my way through and am still in the early episodes, but it’s been a fun listen that I will continue to enjoy year-round.

Needless to say, all the wonderful Book Riot podcasts are also part of my regular listening, despite the fact that they just cause my TBR to grow to unmanageable heights.

Listening to Bookish Music

As mentioned above, my podcast listening has been down during the pandemic, but my music listening has been at its highest of the last few years. It’s been providing me the perfect balance of distraction without requiring as much attention, and belting along to familiar tunes in the car has been excellent stress relief.

My rediscovery of music started out thanks to my Lord of the Rings rewatch and getting swept up by the film score again for the first time in years. I’ve had many an evening where all I can muster is to turn on “May It Be” (the song that plays over the end credits of Fellowship) and sit with my emotions while Enya’s voice wraps me in an ethereal cloud. Highly recommend.

On a very different note, when it comes to current music, I listen to mostly J-pop. My most recent favorite that I have not been able to stop listening to is YOASOBI, a duo that formed just last year and is already taking Japan by storm. Each song by the duo, comprised of composer Ayase and vocalist ikura, is adapted from a short story from monogatary.com, a website where users can write and share stories based on daily prompts. This concept drew me in, and as soon as I heard their first song “Yoru ni Kakeru,” I was completely hooked. (CW: “Yoru ni Kakeru” contains inferences to suicide)

If you’re interested in finding more literary music, check out these albums inspired by literature and these popular songs that reference classic books.

Other Bookish Activities

There are tons of other bookish activities that I haven’t gotten around to yet myself but definitely aspire to do at some point. Here are links to various other posts around the site that highlight a few!

Happy (not) reading!!