on assessing my to-read list

by flickr user wonderlaneI was going to do an audit of the stuff I’ve read so far this year, because I want to see how I’m doing on my summer reading goals and all, but right now, I think what would be more productive in my reading life is to get ahold of my insane to-read list, which comprises a bunch of titles I want to read, plus books I have piled up at home and piled up virtually on my Kindle. I have been having feelings of guilt lately for my good fortune when it comes to getting free books at conferences and having access to tons of libraries and making enough money that I can buy books when I want to.

Every once in awhile I get really good at realizing my limits and accepting my interests, and I go on a blitz on Goodreads, deleting a million titles from my to-read list. Often I can get rid of like 30 titles doing this, which seems like a huge weight off my shoulders, but the number of TBRs still hangs around 600 no matter what I do. There are just too many interesting-sounding books out there.

And yet I read less than I used to. In grad school I had an “excuse” to read: it was homework and professional development. Now it’s professional development, but I’m also a professional, so I have less free time and less energy. I’ve also had to take more time doing things that are Good For Me, like exercising regularly, eating meals that consist of more than just potato chips and goat cheese (oh, that’s what I want for dinner now, damnit), and cleaning my bathroom, so there goes time.

While I started off strong this year, in the last couple of months I have not read a lot of books that I was really passionate or excited about. And that right there, coupled with my anxiety/guilt about having so many books and not reading them, is what really contributes to my reading less, I think. I tend to be anxious, and I have bipolar II disorder, so I also tend toward the depressive and lethargic. And when I consider that I might choose the Wrong Book or that I might not review something on time, of course the easiest solution is to not do anything but lie on my bed and stare at “Cake Boss.”

I know that self-care is a thing that you’re supposed to do, and I feel like I need to do it with my reading, because reading is something that makes me who I am, and therefore it should be an integral part of my treatment plan. (Don’t worry: I also take lots of pills and go to yoga and get acupuncture now.) That means abandoning the summer reading plans I made, which were stupid, because I don’t have summer vacation. That means not trying to please other people or read things just because they’re recommended to me (SO HARD TO DO) but instead trying to frame it as “This book sounds interesting, PLUS someone whose opinion I respect thinks it’s good, so probably I will like it.”

I’ve also been trained in the past year (thanks, having a job in Silicon Valley) to run my life entirely by Google Calendar, so I think I actually need to schedule reading, like “you should post a review of X by Y date” or “write an essay on this theme, so read these three books.” That’s disgusting. But maybe it will work.

At any rate, I’m going to set out my first few books that are on the docket for Definitely Must Read Because I Legitimately WANT To Read Them So I Will Get To Them Before The End Of August. I’m not sure anyone cares, but they say setting out your goals publicly helps make you feel accountable; hence social fitness and food diary apps, hence NaNoWriMo. So here we go.

1-2: Dirty Wings by Sarah McCarry and The Vast and Brutal Sea by Zoraida Córdova

Why now: because I preordered them ages ago and I just got them and the authors are friends of mine. And because I’m quite sure I will enjoy them.

What prompted me to want them in the first place: As I said, friends. And also, series installments!


3: Nil by Lynne Matson

Why now: because it looks like fun and because I will be co-reading it with a blogfriend whom I will reveal later when we’ve confirmed the deets.

What prompted me to want to read it in the first place: My boss ordered it. It came in. I hadn’t heard of it. She said it was YA “Lost.” Done.


4: Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

Why now: well, I am scared because I know it is a behemoth, but I know it has lots of inside nods to librarians and is also going to be an it thing and I love metafiction, so I think I need to be on top of the curve if I’m not going to be ahead of it.

What prompted me to want to read it in the first place: Westerfeld is someone everyone loves and I haven’t read in years. I meant to read Leviathan, never did. Read Uglies and Pretties as a teen, never finished the series. My coworker loves his whole vampirism-as-STD thing. But this one sounds like me.


5: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Why now: because I started an employee book club and this is the book everyone picked, and if I’m leading a discussion, I should probably read it.

What prompted me to want to read it in the first place: famous? And stuff?


6: How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran

Why: because I want to laugh.

What prompted me to want to read it in the first place: see above. Also, look at the cover and its nod to Sylvia Plath!

That’s it. That’s all I’m going to officially commit to, because that will give me structure but also let me have the freedom to pick some other stuff from all of my….umm…piles. Making this list actually gave me even more anxiety. Someone, please hire me to write book reviews based on my TBR so that I can have deadlines and structure and somebody else telling me what to do.


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