In 2019 I read over 100 books. A personal record. A record I’ve never come close to before. This happened for a lot of reasons. One I wrote about last year, giving myself permission to read what I want. In college, I was an English major, spending hours reading assigned texts. Many good ones, but not many I would have sought out on my own. Now, as an English teacher, I spend many more hours reading “assigned” words as well. From student essays to emails to articles on pedagogy and research for lesson plans, all of it necessary and none of it chosen.
It felt like what I “should” be reading. It was challenging stuff and definitely “worth” my time. This reading made me grow as a professional. It was a way for me to help students. It helped me stay aware of the goings on in my school and county. My mind was challenged. All of this reading “produced” something. It was for work, for school, for my students.
Subsequently, the last thing I wanted to do when I went home was read more, for pleasure or not. So in 2019 I put a stop to all the “should” reading and started instead reading not to produce. Turns out, I don’t have to be constantly producing for my reading time to be worthwhile. I read love stories and adventure stories. I read fantastical stories and true stories. I read about how to help myself and how to help kids read. I read seminal texts and books with pictures and books with Valkyries. Plus, most of these I read with my ears, through Libby. Giving myself permission for my reading to not have to be productive (although let’s be real, all reading is beneficial) turned out to be my most impressive statistical year, even though I didn’t plan or work for it.
I did, however, read instead of doing a lot of other things. I didn’t watch much TV or hike as much as I did in previous years. I didn’t listen to podcasts or go to movies. I missed out on truly relaxing because I read. While I gave myself permission to read any and everything I wanted, I didn’t let go that puritanical inner push to be doing, doing, doing. Sure, I was reading for pleasure, but if I read just one more book this weekend then I’ll have finished two in two days and isn’t that cool Twitter? Instagram, look at what I did! Form an orderly line to offer me back pats.
Do I feel awesome about what I’ve accomplished? Absolutely.
Do I want to keep up this pace and keep saying no to other things in my life? Ehh, not any more.
I want to watch good TV shows and spend time moving my body. I want to write more and meet new people. I want to spend more time walking my grumpy dog and taking bird watching classes. I want to listen to music again. I certainly want to keep reading, but I want more, too. More rest. More chill. And if that means less titles on my Goodreads and less bragging rights, that’s perfectly fine.
It’ll mean less stress, too. Because in 2020, saying no to reading will mean saying yes to stories in different forms. I’ll finally catch up on all those shows I’ve added to my watch list. I’ll listen with my full attention to my students. I’ll learn from others in person in classes at my local park. With any luck, I’ll make some new stories for myself in this new year instead of only reading them.