I said the other day that I plan on doing the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge this year to keep me on my toes with books. I also said I was looking for more challenges.
Well, I don’t know how I forgot that YALSA’s The Hub runs a reading challenge each winter after the Youth Media Awards are announced, but they do, and every year I say I’m going to participate but I get too busy. This is the year.
That’s it, though. Otherwise:
I’ve noticed with people in the real world that I meet, they often describe reading as a process wherein they read a book, find it interesting, return it to the library, and then get another book, maybe based on something they read in the first book, or otherwise based on some other point of inspiration, like a recommendation from a friend or a review in the newspaper.
“I read this and then I read that” is a progression that seems so logical, and yet it’s totally foreign to my experience.
Like, it baffles me that some people don’t keep miles-long TBR lists and instead just read a book, finish it, and then start a new book. They don’t have this anxiety about wanting to please everyone, to read all of their friends’ books and all of their friends’ recommendations, to read everything the western canon says you should and all of the alt things you’re supposed to read while rejecting that notion of cultural superiority, to indulge in easy, guilty pleasure reads and take the time to challenge oneself outside of one’s comfort zone, oh, and not to mention to just read the books in one’s comfort zone and which one wanted to read all along??
That is my reading life. I guess I assumed it was everyone’s.
My to-read list is an exercise in all of the above things, and I guess that’s both good and bad. At this point it’s a story in and of itself, and I can pretty much peg exactly why and in what context I marked a book as TBR, even if I later change my mind, or even if I know I don’t actually have any real intention of ever getting to it.
But the bad thing about all of this, besides the fact that it doesn’t help me cope with my anxiety disorder, is that it means I hoard books from the library, download obsessively from Edelweiss, and buy books all the time, and then they pile up and I never get to them, or I get to them in the wrong context and don’t enjoy them when I might have earlier or later.
Things pile up on my TBR and my library shelf because ideas excite me so much. But I don’t get to them fast enough because of my backlist of hoarded titles. And we all know how reading one book that is interesting prompts you to want to read books mentioned in that book, other books by that same author, previous works of cultural importance that inform the one you just read, etc etc.
After reading Serpentine, I learned that fantasy isn’t a terrible genre or even boring, so I got some fantasy recommendations from people and started reading another book that’s great so far, Zahrah the Windseeker. So I’m going to follow that fantasy thread for awhile and see where it gets me. Also, after reading Citizen and also buying Between the World and Me, I’ve realized that if I don’t read Baldwin, Lorde, and Du Bois, I don’t know anything about anything. So that’s the next pathway.
And then I just want to see where things take me. Sure, I’ll have a few books over the year that I will drop everything for, like sequels I’ve been waiting for and the like. And books that I’m reviewing. I’m also making it a point to read more picturebooks and easy readers, because people ask me about those a lot (you can take the girl out of the library, but you can’t take the MLS out of the girl). But the challenge I’m really giving myself this year is to reduce the anxiety I associate with reading, even though I also regard it as one of my favorite hobbies. My challenge is to stop making reading a challenge and just make it a thing I do once again. No stress. Just picking up a book at a time as it interests me.
Basically, I’m trying to be a normal human being. Easy peasy.