Reconsidering

A bit earlier in the year, I had lots of fun choosing books for a few challenges, for the book club, and to read along with some friends in real life and online. But now in March, I find myself at a halt, trying to decide how to proceed with my readings. So far, this is a great year. I’ve already read 25 titles, (and most have been truly great books.) However, -and there has to be a however in a post titled reconsidering, right?, I am jumping into some books with a sense of forceful duty but without conviction. I’m suffocated, and it’s my own fault, -I’m the one imposing some books on myself, or doubting my urgency to quit.

I love my friends at the book club, but there again, I always force myself to try to read every month’s selection, and I end up frustrated because my reading life becomes cluttered, and those other books I love I’m not savoring, or not even getting to. I’m simply going to read only those I’m interested in. I’m also going to give myself permission to go to book club night, even if I haven’t read the book, or even permission to skip book club too.

I’ve committed to three books I do want to read, (two I have read, the third I do hope it’s a good one.) You can read about it here. It was also hard for me to realize I did not want to lead a book club on Ishiguro’s The Unconsoled. But Karen will lead a book club for The Remains of the Day, and I will lead two, one for The Buried Giant, the other for East of Eden.

Reading is complex. We all read with different goals and different principles in mind. I do like to stretch my reading comfort zone, -I don’t only or always read books that make me ‘feel good’. (That’s impossible, I’d say, when one reads, like I do, lots of classics). But I acknowledge some difficult to express guidelines that I must respect if I don’t want to lose who I am as a person and as a person who reads. I could try to explain what I mean by this internal guidelines, it’s probably a mix of conscience and taste, and what fills a need at the time, (what intrigues me, what’s most beneficial to my whole self), or serendipitous reads that find their way without derailing me completely.

I have tried, but I am finally realizing that I don’t do great when I add a lot of contemporary titles to my reading pile. For those, I need to be picky. I also need to nurture my readings in Spanish. More and more I’m noticing how much I need to have a good mix of English and Spanish titles, (even if that means leaving out or waiting on certain titles.) With anything mid 1900 up to now, I also need to be selective. The heaviness of the topics, and the styles of the writers, can make me weary. I need to pair any of these hard and sad books with something else, (not necessarily light or fun, but different in tone, place, topic, etc.)

I need to learn to say no to some possibilities, to not feel guilty if I quit a book, -no matter how great that book is to many others, and to not feel guilty about re-reading, or about choosing long books, (re-reads or new to me) that take up most of my reading time, even if that means I’m not going to discover those many authors I have not read yet. I need to follow my path, and give those books nobody reads but me undivided attention, instead of neglecting them in favor of moving along my TBR list that’s full with those other books I’m not convicted about.

Praying over my reading life is something I need to get back to. That always helps me. That and the support of great readers and friends who also go through similar situations. I want to be sure about all my choices, and leave all other pressure and reasons at the door.

How is your reading going this year? (I hope it’s nothing less than fabulous.)

33 thoughts on “Reconsidering

  1. I think all bloggers and book club members end up reading lots of books we wouldn’t necessarily prioritise, if we’re not careful. I got caught in a loop for a while of reading far more new releases than I used to, leaving no time for classics or re-reads. I’ve cut right back on new stuff, filled my TBR with lots of books I really want to read, and am feeling much happier about my reading again. Hope you find a balance that works well for you – I constantly have to remind myself that reading is first and foremost a pleasure (even if sometimes it’s about tough subjects), and that putting too much pressure on myself, or giving in to hype, can begin to take the pleasure out of it…

    Liked by 2 people

    • FictionFan, you have made my day with this comment. I thank you for being a regular reader of this my space, and for taking the time to write these words of encouragement.
      What you say about reading for pleasure, (even if about tough subjects), that’s where I want to go back to. I’m very happy to hear you are there yourself.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Completely agree with the comments above! Need that encouragement also 🙂 I think for me it’s easy to see what others are reading and think it might work for me too…then quickly jump on board without thinking first if it’s really a title I *should* read. Or even a classic that many rave about may just not be the right timing for me. You’re encouraging me, Silvia, to do the same – read what I’m passionate about and leave behind what I’m not (without feeling guilty.) Think it’s time for me to look at my list again…grateful for this wonderful freedom to read! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • I know very well those feelings. We are similar in that we both value that sense of community, we have a desire to appreciate and try that which others find to be of value, and we want to grow in our reading. And the lists and challenges are wonderful tools, but our sense of commitment, -which is also a good thing, can turn on us and start to oppress us. I’m happy for our regained freedom.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I love this! I could have said all this myself–except for the part about literature in Spanish, which, unfortunately, I can’t read. 🙂

    Sometimes I get caught up in a lust for books, and lust–even for books–is not a good thing. And then I pull back and remember that I will never read all the great books, even if I live to be 100, so why not slow down and read just the ones that are going to be a blessing to me? Which is not to say just “happy” books, but books that make me think and feel more deeply, that make me more aware of the beauty and tragedy of this world we live in, and which make me long even more for our redemption which “draweth nigh.”

    Liked by 3 people

    • Oh, Sherry, thanks for expanding so eloquently. Yes, in my case, mu curiosity and love for all that is potentially food, can take me to lust for books.

      Please, add me too to those who should always be sure to never separate the reading experience from their spiritual life.

      Liked by 1 person

    • And you may not read Spanish literature in Spanish (for I know one day we’ll all be discussing a Galdós title, The Spendthrifts, at Karen’s blog, right?), but you also have some readings particular to who you are, and, believe it or not, you have positively influenced me with those, most specially, it’s thanks to you I now read poetry almost daily.

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  4. I have been feeling similarly too Silvia. In fact, I had thought about writing about it on my blog a week or two ago but didn’t. At least not yet anyway. I tend to read fast a lot of times and I devoured books in January. I slowed my reading down for Great Expectations when I read it for my classics book club and found that I liked the pace. And that got me thinking, this isn’t a race to see how many books I can read! This is about enjoying good books and stretching myself to read books I feel it would be good for me to read at some point. I also like to read a book on a whim if I find a book that grabs my interest. Also, I have a goal this year to try to incorporate more from other genres like memoirs, biographies, essays, short stories, plays, and others. I read for enjoyment; but I also read to learn more. I also read to grow; to stretch myself and increase my understanding as Adler puts it in How to Read a Book. Reading ancient literature certainly does that for me! LOL Hence, reading The Iliad stretches me but is also a book I feel I need to read.

    I even thought about not worrying about the MMD reading challenge and then that got me thinking again about whether I really want to stick with a reading challenge. I have so many books I’d like to read….and a lot of books on my shelves that I’d like to get to. Plus I read lots of children’s literature too. But it is just so hard to not join in with the reading challenge when December rolls around and all the challenges come out! You know? LOL

    Oh…and I do like to read in community when I can. I need to discuss books! So looking forward to reading together this summer!

    Liked by 3 people

    • I do love all you wrote, Karen. I guess this is the month when we slow down and reflect a bit on what we are going now, after that first of the year momentum we felt, when we saw all the possibilities, and joined challenges or just drafted our own lists, etc.
      I am also looking forward to reading together.
      I’m also glad to hear about your pace with Great Expectations. I’m stripping back so that I can enjoy my Don Quijote reread.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think you described it really well when you called the first of the year “momentum” and that we see all the possibilities. Yes! And I just get so excited to talk about what I might like to read and see what others are picking for their challenges. But then this year, just in the last few weeks, I’ve really felt like sometimes the challenge is boxing me in. Not in that there aren’t tons of choices I can pick (because there certainly are!), but that I find myself sometimes feeling like I *have* to make sure I’m reading books for those categories and getting it accomplished. It doesn’t have to be that way though. Reading challenges can be an idea….something fun to try but it doesn’t have to be binding. I think you said something like that once when we had a discussion about reading challenges (maybe last year?). I can be very task-oriented at times and I can see that playing out with my reading challenge….got to get those categories completed! LOL

        It’s funny really….I decided not to join the Back to the Classics challenge this year but I still look at it here and there and see if what I’m reading fits any of the categories. But I don’t feel bound to those categories because I didn’t officially join the challenge. Maybe I’m on to something there. Don’t join any challenges but still look at them every now and then and see if I’m completing any categories? Too funny. I crack myself up sometimes! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • That makes sense, Karen. None of these comments (poetry rhyming or challenges as guides, sound any silly.)
          I like Sherry’s idea of poetry hearing. I am going to look for one in my area.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. I absolutely agree. I’ve almost abandoned participating in reading challenges of any sort, unless a reading whim moves me at the right time, because I found myself feeling desperately restricted. If I feel I *have* to read a book, I rebel against it. My main problem is review books – I want to read them, but not necessarily at the time I get them…. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I totally hear you on those pesky challenges. December/January is fun, with making lists, looking hopefully at the year ahead. By now, I start feeling like a have this huge lists of (wonderful) books that I have to read. I want to read the, I just don’t want to have to read them. Currently I have about twenty books going, for one book discussion or another, the book I am reading with a friend, and honestly I don’t want to read any of them, not at this moment. It’s hard because challenges and book discussions can be so helpful with reading more, and wider, but they can also become this huge burden.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Helena, I love what you said when you said: “I want to read them, I just don’t want to have to read them.” Yes! I think I feel like that sometimes! I agree that reading challenges can be so helpful at times but can also easily turn into a burden. Like I said in my comment above, I have been feeling like my challenge is boxing me in somewhat and that makes me want to not do it.

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  7. Aww, Silvia, what a good post. Yes, I totally hear you. I’ve been actually running into where I’ve been too mentally fried for much reading at all. 😦 Which is sad! We have a few too many outside commitments currently and a couple are finishing soon and I can’t wait! We need some margin for just contemplating all the beautiful ideas we are surrounding ourselves with…I guess I am still reading good books with the children, just my stack is suffering. I’ve also been getting outside more with a teeny bit warmer weather, which is good. I hear you on modern stuff. I check out so many and return most of them without reading them! I also had to take a hard look at my stacks and start to weed out. I wanted to read One Hundred Years of Solitude and The House of Spirits but I realized I just didn’t have the time right now and One Hundred Years wasn’t the easiest or redemptive reading. I think I need to take a break from checking too many books out from the library and just focus on my own stack/shelves. I’m enjoying Poisonwood Bible (so disturbing and sad, but beautifully written) and inching ever so slowly through Les Mis, which is wonderful and heart breaking. I have two books on Amy Carmichael that I might just set aside, as I was reading those because of research for our CM community group, and I think I have way TOO much info about her in my head. Thanks for the push to reevaluate and cull the stacks! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Amy. It’s good to stop and think, and doing some culling, as you say. I hope your group research goes well. (Sometimes we don’t need a lot of information, I know you are great in that capacity.) Enjoy your Les Mis, and Poisonwood Bible.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Amy, reading from shelves…that’s what I’m thinking about too. I mentioned that in a previous comment. I have so many good books I just haven’t gotten to yet. One of them I especially want to read is The Story of the Trapp Family Singers and then watch The Sound of Music again. I have a lot of classics on my shelf I haven’t read yet (Les Miserables is one!) and I also have a lot of various other books that I’d like to read at some point…history, science, historical fiction and non-fiction…

      Once you finish Les Miserable, there’s a couple of pretty good movie productions of it if you haven’t seen any yet.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Pingback: Some Recent Bookish Thoughts |

  9. Similar feelings here, Silvia. I’ve joined a monthly book club with some longtime friends that I was a part of a few years ago but had to give up for a while. A book a month, but I decided at the beginning of the year that there were at least 3 of the titles that I wasn’t going to read and one of them I’d already read before so I’ll just join in with the discussion. The first book in the Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy is one of the scheduled book but I’ve enjoyed it so much I want to read all of them. Just as well I bought the Penguin Classic that had all 3 books! I vacillate between wanting a challenge and having time to read thoughtfully & not just rush through to tick a box.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am so happy you did enjoy KL so much as to read the other 2. It gets better. It’s such a powerful trilogy, it’s such a great experience to see Kristin and Norway through the years.

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    • Carol, you said: “I vacillate between wanting a challenge and having time to read thoughtfully & not just rush through to tick a box.” Yes! That’s how I feel sometimes. You described it perfectly! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I’ve enjoyed reading this post and all the comments that followed!

    You said it so well when you said, “I am jumping into some books with a sense of forceful duty but without conviction.”

    Reading seems a bit like travelling to me. When you visit new places, you end up meeting new people who are from (or have visited) other places, which they then recommend to you. Your list of “Places I Want to Visit” grows longer. For me at least, the same applies to reading.

    It’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of reading lists and new books. But, as you say, you shouldn’t feel guilty for prioritising a book that you genuinely want to read, even if it’s at the expense of other books. It’s also important to take time to savour and mull over a book that you’ve just read. Perhaps that’s one of the great benefits of keeping a blog—its your own little space to ponder books and reading in general.

    Thanks for sharing your ideas. It’s given me lots to think about!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love your analogy, Laura. Oh, and welcome!
      That’s spot on, about the time we need to mull over a book and blogs being perfect for that. This is why I want to join reading with others, (it’s like traveling with people), but it’s true that as unique readers, most times, we need to travel the path of some books by ourselves.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Very true! And I like the way you’ve put it (“we need to travel the path of some books by ourselves”).

        The community side of blogging and book clubs is great. I guess it’s also important to find the balance that works for us.

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  11. I planned on quite a few read-alongs this month but put some aside. One was for Doctor Zhivago and I read maybe 60 pages and felt like I was forcing myself to do so, even though I wasn’t really in the mood to read it. I think it’s something I’d really enjoy so I’d rather read it when I’m in the right frame of mind. And I don’t think that it’s bad at all to change paths with reading – it’s what we should be doing! And when it comes down to it, we’re the ones who get upset with ourselves when we think we’re getting off track.

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  12. I have a really hard time with reading schedules. I just love that feeling of finishing a book and looking over the bookshelf to see what strikes my fancy. I like to have lists, but more for guidance than as a constraint.

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    • Unless I actively want to join reading a book with others, I too don’t like rigid schedules. That freedom to finish a book and picking something from the shelves, or of just picking a title you’ve seen recommended, etc., it’s such an exhilarating feeling to me as well. Guidance is a good way to put it. I’m with you!

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