What shall I read next?

I finished up my mystery book group selection a couple nights ago: Sarah Caudwell’s Thus Was Adonis Murdered. We are meeting tomorrow night, so perhaps I will write about that soon. Last night I read a decent-sized chunk of the biography I’m in the middle of: Richard Holmes’s Coleridge: Darker Reflections. I am really enjoying it, even if it is quite grim. It’s not called Darker Reflections for nothing. I was planning on reading steadily in it until I finished or got close, but it’s just slightly too heavy to be my default read — by which I mean the book I read to relax and the one I feel I can read in for hours, if need be. I always have something going in that category, and it’s usually a novel.

So it’s time to pick up a novel, it seems. I’ve been thinking about Eva’s post on reading at whim lately, a concept I can really get behind. I’m in the mood to read exactly what I want without thinking about reading plans or what I should read or whether I’m challenging myself enough. I have some reading I have to do for school, and I’d prefer that all other reading be exactly what I want and nothing else.

This brings up a little problem for me, though, because I’ve been realizing that reading at whim isn’t easy when 1. my whims change frequently, 2. I’m a slow reader, 3. I like to finish books I start, except in rare cases, and 4. I prefer not to have a huge pile of books I’m in the middle of to suit my every mood. That would be too confusing. The problem is a lot of times that the whim of one day is entirely different from the whim of the next or the day after, at which point I’m still in the middle of the book I began following my whim on day 1. I’m sorely tempted to pick up Margaret Oliphant’s The Perpetual Curate, thanks to Amateur Reader, but it’s a long book, and what if I get in the mood for something short and contemporary a few days from now? I’m sometimes in the mood to read something challenging, but what if just a couple days from now, I need something easy? I’d rather not put a book down in the middle of it if I’m not hating it, and I don’t want to just keep adding books to the pile of ones I’m currently reading, so it seems I can read at whim only now and then.

That’s why I agonize about what I’m going to pick up next, I suppose. So, off to the shelves …

11 Comments

Filed under Books, Reading

11 responses to “What shall I read next?

  1. I think I read at whim a little too much, which is why I do tend to have too many books started. I wish I could break the habit or at least get it under control, but oh well. If nothing else I am never or rarely at a loss to pick something out of my pile that appeals. Have fun choosing something good!

  2. Ah, I see the difference. Your numbered list is very helpful. We are similar on #1-3, but opposite on #4. I strongly prefer the bookmarked pile, five or six books going at once. That almost always solves the problem, and if not, a seventh or eighth bookmark will do it.

    The Perpetual Curate is a treat. Whenever it fits your mood, I think you’ll enjoy it a lot.

  3. The Perpetual Curate is calling my name, too! Darn that Amateur Reader. :-)

    My whims usually take me through a book at a time, more or less, although I usually have two going at once plus a volume of poetry or essays or something non-linear with no plot or argument to keep track of. Loved Eva’s reading-at-whim post.

  4. I’m all for read by whim. I’m a slow reader, too, but I can seldom finish a book I don’t like a lot. I want to read fantastic books, not okay ones, but what I consider fantastic isn’t the same as anyone else. So what to do? I’m going to have a try with The Perpetual Curate.

  5. I do like a bit of focus in my reading, but when I’m feeling capricious I tend to have three books – one fiction, one non-fiction and then one other, short stories perhaps, or something more intellectual. That way I don’t get the confusion that can result from too many novels on the go, for instance. But sometimes it’s just hard to gauge your own mood. When I stopped blogging a while back, I couldn’t figure out what to read for days because I always had some little reason in the back of my mind for picking a book that involved the review I was planning on writing!

  6. Danielle — so I’m wishing to be a little more like you and you are wishing to be a little more like me? I suppose we should both just be happy with the way things are :) I do sometimes think I wish I could have more books underway at once to have even more variety, but it just doesn’t work for me, and I need to accept that.

    Amateur Reader — well, I do have five books going at the moment, but only one novel, and it’s with novels that the whole “reading at whim” thing starts to become an issue with me. I like the idea of having more going at once, but it just won’t work for me, I think. Although maybe I should experiment??

    Emily — with non-linear books, as you usefully describe them, I can read as many as I want and I’m fine with it. It’s just with novels that I generally prefer only one at a time. Although a good bit of the nonfiction I read has a continuous narrative or argument that makes it a little like novel-reading — which is another reason I can only have one novel going at a time. Oh, well — my reading habits work pretty well, I suppose!

    Lilian — I’d love to know what you think of The Perpetual Curate! I did just put down a book I wasn’t enjoying, so I am willing to do it now and then. You’re right that it’s best to read fantastic books rather than just okay ones. A good guideline!

    Litlove — it can definitely be hard to gauge your own mood, something I’ve become more and more aware of. You’re right that blogging can give a structure to one’s reading that is useful sometimes. But it’s also freeing to let go of that structure and just see what your mood is, even if it takes a while to figure out.

  7. Be bold, experiement, have more than one novel on the go and see what happens. Worst case it doesn’t work out and it takes you a a couple months to get through the multiples or you pull the bookmarks out and decide to try the book again at a another time. Best case it goes brilliantly and then you start having the ocassional post like Danielle and I make about all the in progress books you are trying to whittle down but you couldn’t help but start a new book anyway :)

  8. Every month I pick six or so books that I think will fit every possible mood. Most months (okay, really, every month), at least one title gets carried over into the next month, because I don’t seem to be able to get halfway through a month without picking up something that wasn’t in the original stack. So, I am afraid I can’t be of much help in this area. Although, I do happen to know that you have Grange House, and I would highly recommend reading that after just having come back from Maine (which is what I did when I read it). Another good one to read either in or having just come back from Maine is Louise Dickinson Rich’s We Took to the Woods (which I know Hobgoblin has, because I found out about it from his blog).

  9. zhiv

    Great breakdown of the phenomenon. I have all the same problems and I’ve been a complete disaster this summer. With me, I keep writing these days (and working too I guess), not blogging tho because I’m not really reading with any focus. Pretty much the same program as last summer, as it turns out. Hoping that a more focused reading binge will come along in September. But you get right to the crux of the matter, and I’m like AR about #4, I like the big pile, but I just don’t read as much. Sly one, that AR, gathering readers for John Galt and now Margaret Oliphant.

  10. Jenny

    I love Sarah Caudwell! Hope to hear your thoughts on that one soon. And during this summer, I have been reading completely on whim. I think I got too caught up in what I “should” be reading, or, as you say, in whether I was challenging myself enough. Reading entirely according to my mood has been fun and interesting.

  11. Stefanie — perhaps I should try it! I don’t think now is the best time, as I’ll have to keep up with reading for classes and that could stress me out — but what am I saying! You keep up with school reading and still have lots of books underway at once. Hmmm. :)

    Emily B. — I like your method, although I’m not sure I can be that organized and think in terms of months. But the idea is attractive. I’ll have to write you at some point about Grange House, because I did pick it up earlier this summer. I think my next Maine book might be Sarah Orne Jewett’s Pointed Firs one. I’ll have to ask Hobgoblin about the Rich book because I don’t remember him reading it.

    Zhiv — I’m hoping for a turn to more focused reading for you so I can read your posts again! But writing is good too, of course, as is working. The idea of a big pile stresses me out, somehow. I wish it didn’t.

    Jenny — I really enjoyed the Caudwell book, as did most of my book group. I’m glad to have read it! I hope to write some thoughts up soon. I’m glad you’ve enjoyed reading according to whim. Challenges are good but so are indulgences :)

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