how my to-read list works

Until Twitter, Goodreads was probably the social networking website I adapted to (and thus made indispensible to my life) most quickly. My senior year of high school, my friend sent me an invite, and within maybe six months, I was updating obsessively and in great detail. Now, GoodReads is my best friend and my favorite social site. Though I hate being so attached to an Internet thing, I do credit it with making me feel a lot of obligation and guilt if I am not reading consistently and with critical thought and reflection, and that can only be good for my brain.

That said, like I said in my post for 50/50 Me, things on the Internet have the tendency to make me want to know something about everything, and the subjects I am interested in reading about grow at a much faster rate than I read—and that’s saying something, because I have trained myself to read, with understanding and engagement, rather quickly. (Practice makes perfect, right?) So my to-read list grows very quickly, and I have a difficult time deleting books from it, for a variety of reasons.

1. If I added it to my to-read list, something made me want to read it, and usually my memory works in such a way that seeing the title or cover will trigger a conversation with a teacher who recommended the author or an article I read that was inspired by a collection of poems, or whatever. I think I owe it to my memory to at least keep it on the list, in the hopes that someday I might get to it.

2. I feel social pressure and guilt if I don’t read certain things. I’ve gotten rid of a lot of this—for example, I don’t feel the need to read Twilight, ever, and I have accepted that there are some types of books that I just don’t care for—like, for example, most mysteries or novels on the NYT bestseller list that claim to be sensations (read: The Help or Freedom). But if someone I really respect or someone who knows me very well gives me a specific reason to read something, I feel like I should. Also, while I say that it’s unnecessary to read the classics when sociocultural insiderness gives you most of the information you need about them anyway, I secretly would like to see what all the fuss over Lolita and Wuthering Heights and Portrait of a Lady is all about.

3. I have bipolar disorder, and also I’m a human, and also my scholarly self is very comparative literature-based, so I have a variety of interests naturally, supplemented by the wonder that is hyperlinkage. I need a varied, vast to-read list because, depending on my current mood, my outside commitments as far as school reading and work exhaustion, and whatever events are occurring in my life, different genres and topics resonate with me.

4. There are certain types of books, at least in my eyes, that have to be read slowly and in small doses. These are things like poetry and science writing and ethical or religious texts. So, while I might feel like the majority of my intellectual energy is dedicated to absorbing just a few poems or one essay on economics, I still need to read something else for the other hours of the day, because what else would I do with my time, so that demands a varied list as well—it’s good to have a fast-paced dystopia on your hands so that you don’t get too bogged down by Frank O’Hara.

5. One of the ways I manifest as a hipster is that I have a major intellectual snobbery chip on my shoulder, and I love knowing that I have read books that other people haven’t, or that other people will find twee or quirky or intriguing—and for the most part, I also honestly want to read whatever book it is, but this may define whether I choose a title on paper or on Kindle.

6. Lately I have this idea that reading is a magical form of osmosis, and that anything I read that could fall into the category of health or self-help or mental/emotional wellbeing will instantly change my life based solely on my reading of it. Hence my recent addition of many texts on ethics, religion, eating habits, and self-definition.

So I’ve accepted that I’ll never actually carve a chunk out of my to-read list, because each thing you read, whether good or bad, probably makes you want to read something new. But I still like to wonder how much faster and how much more often I can read books while still achieving understanding and interest.

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