Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Reluctant Reading, Interrupted- some strategies



I stayed up too late last night, and things feel a little loud and a little too bright this morning, even though the sun isn’t up yet…but I finished The Book!

I’ve been reading The Brothers Karamazov since May, I think, but it feels like forever since the sight of its cover didn’t cause a twinge of guilt. How many other books have I not read in the time I’ve been slogging my way through this one?

It's more than a handful, I am sure.

I always have multiple books going at once, so I didn’t feel bad about reading other things on the side. This is a heavy read and a long-term commitment. At some point, though, I realized that I was avoiding reading altogether because I felt bad about not wanting to read this book.

I wanted to have read this book, yes…but the actual reading of it was not something I enjoyed.

Then, yesterday, the Kindle app on my phone informed me that I had crossed the 89% mark. Suddenly, I couldn’t put it down. The end was in sight! I read whenever I could squeeze in a few minutes (including a little while where I hid from my kids on top of the dryer in the laundry room), and I have finally finished.

I don’t think I liked this book. (Since it is Dostoyevsky, I understand that my dislike of it probably says more about me than about the book.)

Still, there was so much in it that I can’t fully say yet that I didn’t like it. I need to think about it some more and discuss it with my book club later this week before I can make a final proclamation...and even after that, I reserve the right to be convinced later that it was really amazing. (If you think it was amazing, I'd love to hear from you!)

What do you do when you really want to have read something but just aren’t enjoying the process of reading it? I once watched a movie instead of reading a book (for 12th grade AP English, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness) but I felt so guilty about it that I went back and crammed the book in later before the exam.

These days, I love descriptive language too much to substitute a movie for a book (and am always afraid I would miss some important detail that way). Still, sometimes I struggle to fit reading in with everything else I'm doing, no matter how much I want to do it.

When I’m committed to reading a challenging book but am having a hard time finishing it, I have several strategies.

1. No guilt. If a book isn't worth it right now, I have no problem ditching it for another one. My reading time is precious. I used to be the kind of reader who always finished her books, no matter what...but these days, I'm okay with leaving one behind if it isn't working for my life right now.

2. I'm not married to my hardback copy. I get through really long reads by reading bits and pieces on the Kindle app on my phone while watching children ride their bikes on the driveway or waiting for them to fall asleep. It can be a pain to switch back and forth between an electronic and paper version, but if it means I get to keep making forward progress, it's worth it.

3. Audio books save me. I listen to Librivox or Audible recordings in the car (if I happen to be by myself, which rarely happens, or if the children have fallen asleep) or at home while I’m doing the dishes or folding laundry. If I’m on a deadline (book club meeting this weekend!), I try to keep the book nearby so I can use all my spare minutes to finish it.

Sometimes, this ends up leaving me with a fragmented feel, like I didn’t have enough long stretches of time to really sink in to the story and the characters…but this is how I can read right now. I don’t have really long stretches of uninterrupted time to do much of anything, including sleep.

During certain seasons in life, you have to take what you can get where time is concerned.

4. My book club spurs me on. Having a group of people who are dedicated to reading and have pledged to encourage each other without guilt has made all the difference. I'm not a very competitive person, but if I know one of my book club friends has finished the book, I'll do everything I can to get to the end so we can talk about all of it. It's the best kind of peer pressure. And for the times that life gets in the way and we can't get to the end, we absolve each other and move on to something else. (More about these special women and our reading together over the last few years tomorrow.)

Tell me, because I want to know- when/where/how do you read? And what are you reading now?