New Goals for 2020: I am a Snail

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All hail the mighty snail!

 

“Finding myself in the middle of a book I never want to end is among the greatest joys of reading. I live for the desire to finish a book in one sitting, and the competing desire to slow down and make the pleasure last. Sadly, I robbed myself that pleasure this year. I blew through everything I read, including books I would’ve dragged out for weeks just to live in their worlds a little longer.” Hurley Winkler

Let me say at the outset this post has nothing to do with anyone else. These thoughts should probably stay in my journal, but in the last month or so, I’ve read a number Tweets or Instagram posts that speak similar feelings, myself included and since this article confirmed all this I decided to share.

Last Monday, the 13th, Charlie Place tweeted an article, “Why I’ll Never Read a Book a Week Ever Again in which the writer, Hurley Winkler, shared her frustration over the stress of reading goals to the extent it affected her love of reading. She had raised her Goodreads Challenge from 40 books read the previous year to 52 in 2019. She found herself reading to finish, instead of reading to savor. “The pressure to finish books sucked some of the day-to-day joy out of my reading life.”

Some of the negative habits that were reflected in this year of fast reading were that she  read books she wasn’t wild about in order to keep up with the habit tracker on Goodreads. Or reading all the stories in a collection when she would normally read only the ones that piqued her interest. In the pressure to read more books she chose shorter-paged books. I am astonished to admit that I could relate to all of these.

In the past, I’ve always felt at peace with abandoning a book before finishing it. Why waste time on a book I don’t love, trudging through to reach an ending that won’t satisfy? But reading a book a week made it harder to justify abandonment. I didn’t want to fall behind—like I said, Goodreads will tell you when you do. And the thought of that sent my Type A brain into a tailspin. So I wound up finishing several books I felt lukewarm about from the very first chapters.

Winkler’s reading experience resonates deeply with me, because not only have the goals and challenges (and my failures to meet them) in the last year affected my desire to read, they also affected my desire to write about what I read. I have made so many excuses to myself as to why this is happening, but nothing made sense until I saw myself in this article and realized how much my reading and blogging has changed in the four years of Relevant Obscurity when at the beginning I took the time to read and then to let the book sit with me before I wrote it up. During the early years I didn’t participate in challenges, except for the Classics Club and the year-long Reading New England hosted by Lory of The Emerald City Book Review. And I just read the classics I wanted to read.

At the end of 2018 I started feeling anxious that I didn’t ‘put out’ as much as I saw other bloggers doing and that maybe I am not as serious a reader as I thought: equating the more books I blog makes me a more serious a reader. I was not allowing myself to be the slow reader and writer I really am.

It’s almost embarrassing to think at this age I am acting like some jr. high schooler who compares herself to everyone else and finds herself lacking because she isn’t measuring up. I need to learn to honor the individuality of everyone’s style without seeing my slowness as a deficiency or someone else’s speed as my liability.

As I think over what I set for reading goals this year, I unconsciously resolved this issue. The challenges are fewer than previous years and have me reading mostly classics, the books I love, and not pressuring myself with a books-read total. I have decided I will not put up a Goodreads goal, but keep my own list until I feel I am back to being honest with myself.

And the books I read, but don’t blog? I will stop feeling anxious about those, too and utilize Instagram or Goodreads for short reviews. Faster readers thrive on goals and contests and I will celebrate those milestones in the bloggers I follow. And I will be ok with being the snail!

I could probably quote every sentence in the article, but this is a perfect conclusion:

“That’s why I’ve set a different reading goal for 2020. This year, it isn’t based on the quantity of books I aim to finish. Instead, I resolve to abandon books I don’t like. I’ll take the whole summer to pore over that staggering novel I never want to end. I’ll recommend books to friends after I’ve lived with the story awhile. I’ll read intentionally and joyously. After all, there are too many good books out there. From now on, I’ll take the time to savor them.”

 

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My new pledge for 2020 is to read only what I love and to blog slowly.

 

2019 Wrap-Up and a Look Ahead to 2020

As I look back at my reading adventures in 2019 I am very happy with what occurred. Two major accomplishments were books I dreaded reading and surprisingly Anna Karenina and Moby Dick turned out to be two of my favorite books of the year.

I had plans to read more books by several writers that have become favorites since I started blogging and while I didn’t get to everyone I am pleased to have finished all of CS Lewis’s Narnia books (which helped me with my contribution to Witch Week and my post on the White Witch), read several novels and novellas by Edith Wharton and two novellas by Henry James.

Other highlights: I read my first Emile Zola and 4 volumes in Susan Cooper’s the Dark is Rising Sequence. Tracy Chevalier’s A Single Thread started me reading contemporary novels (which I post about on Instagram). Some reading experiences I treasured were Charlotte Bronte’s Villette, Mary Shelley’s, Frankenstein, Willa Cather’s, O Pioneers!, and Wharton’s, A Custom of the Country a masterpiece in class criticism of which she is a master. I was disappointed with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and with Virginia Woolf’s, Night and Day.

In 2020 I am looking forward to a quieter year here:

  1. I will finish my Classics Club list by September 13th!
  2. My attraction to Edith Wharton has grown and I have decided I want to read everything she has written! This year, though, I will start with books about her, the classic biographies by R.W.B. Lewis and Hermione Lee as well as Wharton’s own autobiography, A Backward Glance.
  3. Challenges and Readalongs/Readathons: Not many actual Challenges this year–Reading the Classics, European Reading Challenge and the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge, which will get books off my TBR shelves. I want to concentrate on readalongs and events that catch my eye. Four events at the moment have me excited, One Hundred Years of Solitude and War in Peace readalongs, The Wales Readathon and Zoladiction.

My 2020 should be subtitled The Year of the Chunkster or as Chris of Calmgrove calls them ‘doorstops!’ To finish out my Classics Club list I have Wives and Daughters, Portrait of a Lady and Middlemarch; I have committed to reading War and Peace, David Copperfield, Jane Austen’s, Emma; and several more near and over 500 pages. Yikes, what is the matter with me???

 

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In my personal life as a newly retired person life is still a little weird as I look onto a land of many paths. While I love reading and writing for Relevant Obscurity, there is more out there for me. I am looking forward to experiencing more literal trails in nature as well as the spiritual trails in my head. But I am lucky to be where I am now and so grateful for the possibilities.

And finally, Relevant Obscurity exists as a journal of personal reactions, a sensitivity to and awareness about my thoughts as I read and not as a book review blog, because this is why I read….
“A great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading.”
William Styron

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To all my readers far and near I wish you a 2020 of nothing but the joy of living and participating in this wild world and especially, may all your book dreams come true!