If you’re like me, the seemingly endless choice of what to read next can be overwhelming. New books come out weekly. Established authors keep writing. New/emerging authors keep writing. For us English speakers, new translations are released exposing us to even more talent from around the world. Factor in the books that already exist whether you’ve heard of them or not and it’s like how does one even start? Should I read my way through classics, keep it contemporary, or mix it up? But then what?
Mixing It Up (You Should)
A part of me likes to understand the progression of any art form, be it written or visual, so having some idea of the “masters” makes sense. It lets me see how techniques develop and evolve. But as a writer, I should also be reading things written the way people speak and that includes content relevant to the times I’m living in. Since everything you read will have some impact on you, if you stick with only the classics your writing will probably reflect it. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I need to write like Dostoyevsky or Jane Austen in 2015. There’s nothing wrong with being “well-read,” or having these influences, but keeping a rigid reading list will close you off to the human experience if your aspirations are already outdated.
Mood Reading (A Dilemma)
With music and film, what I chose to consume usually reflects how I’m feeling or what’s going on in my life. If I’m bummed, sometimes I want to wallow in it for a bit or have a good cry and tap into something that will be emotional. Other times, I want to be cheered up right away and seek out something humorous. Reading isn’t much different. I may be in the mood for poetry, or short stories over a novel. That’s generally when I want a taste of something, share in brief experiences to reflect and move on. If I prefer a novel over the others, that’s when I hope to get lost somewhere else, gradually unraveling a tale. Being moody, also makes it difficult to decide on the next read. I have a nice sized to-read shelf, which keeps getting added to every time I hit up a bookstore or book sale.
Lists (Limiting But Can Help)
I used to strive at becoming “well-read” and get a sense of accomplishment. I took to finding various lists of X number of books to read before a certain age or one met their demise. One of my firsts however was going around Facebook from the BBC saying most people will have read only 6 out of 100! I’ve read more than six and took some pride in it. But hadn’t made quite as much progress with the others. The trouble with these kinds of lists, is while they give me something to aim for and authors with prestige, they still exclude a large number of what’s out there. Authors that might really speak to me as a person and can also inspire me and my writing. Having acknowledged this and continuing to take risks on new (to me) authors, I only come back to them when I’m having “reader’s block,” need to be reminded of what books I already have, and want to work on my “achievements.”
Non-Professional Reviews (Deal Makers or Breakers)
Once I have two or three works I’m trying to decide between, I find reviews useful as a final decision maker. If enough everyday people are singing praise of something there’s an increased chance it’s actually worth reading. However I consider the way the reviews convey the praise or condemnation. Since it’s easy for people to gather support and attempt to take someone down on the Internet. I don’t make a habit of reading many though because not only my hipster tendencies, but too much hype or criticism can affect my experience. I can’t unsee/unhear/unread things. A huge reason I still haven’t watched *gasp* Disney’s Frozen.
Leave it to Chance (The Truly Unbiased)
I admit I have moments when I pull a Two-Face and flip a coin to make my decisions for me. The good thing is if I’ve made it this far that means I’ve greatly narrowed down my reading options. Leaving it to chance feels a little exciting, because in that moment you might unveil to yourself what it was you actually want to read by whatever your reaction is when you show yourself or hope for before it lands. There’s no pressure and you can just go with it. Or do a best out of if you’re really struggling. Occasionally, I may make a little list assigning letters to the titles and without them knowing which is which, have a friend or significant other pick for me. I don’t always follow what they pick, but most times, I don’t mind and it’s a simple way to make a loved one feel special.
Read a Sample (When All Else Fails)
Or even before all else does. The newest and easiest thing I’ve started to do to solve my too many books woes, is just grab the ones I’m most interested in and read the first sentence, line, or paragraph. The one that speaks to me the most is who gets the green light and the others are set aside for later. I find it also solves the mood reader dilemma.
There you have it. A few of my reading problems and resolutions, what are your methods when you have too many books? Feel free to sound off in the comments and share with friends 🙂