Y’all know I love me a personal library. I wrote about it here and I’ve seen plenty of links showing up in my algorithm, testifying of the great service I’m doing to my children my having a library in the home.
As much as I love to look at my books, to touch their spines, and to rearrange them, sometimes it can be a little daunting to have so many of them surrounding me. Especially because so many of them I have not yet read.
That is an embarrassing admission. I tend to collect books, but sometimes they stay on my shelves for many years before I actually read them. and sometimes the trouble is I just don’t even know where to begin.
I have a section on language that I’d like to read. I have a section on Steven Pinker and Yuval Noah Harari. I have a section on motherhood and parenting. I have a section on the creative life… And I just don’t know where to start.
Because I can’t just have read one single book from a category. The way I’m wired, if I read one, I must read them all, and suddenly it’s overwhelming. This is how I operate. I’m sure someone would tell me it’s some kind of an anxiety thing. Or perfectionism. Or just plain overkill. The bottom line is, I don’t want to invest the time in reading just one if I don’t have the time to read them all.
What happens as a result is I don’t read them at all.
I go through reading famines.
For large swaths of time, I stop reading. It’s usually over the winter, or when I have a lot of editing to do. I tell myself that I’m spending so much time reading for work that I don’t want to do it in my spare time, but I know that’s baloney.
(It’s baloney because in the summer, when I like to sit in the sun and read, I’ll read my entire year’s worth of books on top of my editing schedule.)
I tell you all this to show you that even though I read a lot, I still take breaks, and I still have trouble jumping back in.
So how do you get your reading momentum going?
The first answer is my mom was right. As much as I want to have fancy impressive tomes spread across my lap, the fact is sometimes you need to read the simpler book. Read the YA book. Go look for a Newbury Honor!
That’s what got me started up again this time around–my son had some book projects at school and so I read the book with him. It’s a nice bonding thing if I read the book and we discuss it together. He’s always trying to get me to read what he’s reading.
So I read Gordon Korman’s Supergifted, and then I read Running Out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix. They are salty, buttery popcorn.
That salty buttery popcorn greases the wheels, baby! It was enough to get me to started on my Steven Pinker pile. I aim for one chapter a day, or one chapter section, at least. On really good days I’ll try to write a sentence or two about what I read but I don’t go overboard.
Another thing that always helps me get out of a non-reading rut is rereading a favorite.
I don’t know why this works but it has always worked for me. It’s never a waste of time to reread a book, first of all, because no book is ever the same when you encounter it. Don’t believe me? Do what I do and underline/make notes throughout the whole thing (some of you are gasping, “you monster!” and I’m completely okay with that). Each time I reread something I look at what I underlined and said during previous readings.
Sometimes I’m like, “Damn, self, you so smart!” Most times, though, I’m reminding myself to write in pencil so I can erase my nubile observations before someone else sees them.
The first time you drive somewhere it always takes longer. Once you’re used to driving, there it’s a different sort of trip because you’re not looking for street signs, and you know it’s going to come up next. You enjoy the scenery a bit more.
This is why rereading a book is a nice way to build your confidence. You can make insights into the text that you missed on your first encounter, or weren’t ready to make yet.
Rereading lets you appreciate the text in a new way which makes it more enjoyable– which reminds you that you really do enjoy reading and you wish you read more often. Thus, when you’re done with that book you pick up that one that you’ve been putting off for five years.
And even if you don’t, well, you read something, didn’t you?