Saturday, November 23, 2013

On Resisting Reading What We "Should" Read

Do you ever feel that you “should” read a certain book? Whether it is a classic that you somehow never got around to reading, or a current book that everyone is talking about, do you experience a nagging feeling that you are somehow negligent in not reading that book or those books? I have often felt this as well. In the past, especially during college, grad school, and the decade or so after that, I often read books because they were assigned, or because I felt that as an educated person, I should read them. And I am very glad I read all those books – classics, international literature, feminist theory and fiction, and much more. But there is no way to keep up. Although throughout my whole reading life, I have read about 100 books a year, there are of course thousands more out there -- older books and the constant onslaught of new ones. Once in a while someone will assume that I have read a certain book that is being much talked of, and express surprise that I have not. But it boils down to this: we all have to choose what we spend our reading time on. And we each have our own standards and reasons for choosing what we choose. And as I have gotten older, I have gained a certain freedom from the pressure of “I should read that book.” Now I read pretty much just what I want to read. Even when I feel small pangs of the “I should” feeling, I am increasingly adept at telling myself “but I just don’t feel like it,” and ignoring the book. There is never a shortage of books that I do want to read.

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