Reading report

It’s that time of the semester again — the time when I begin to get a little busier and have less time for reading. Which means I begin to get anxious and to count the weeks until summer (eight weeks of class, with a spring break thrown in there and then finals week). I’m feeling like I haven’t finished a book in forever, a feeling I don’t like at all. Actually, it’s been a little less than two weeks since I finished a book, which, since I’ve got five going now, isn’t too bad, I suppose, but which still feels like a long time.

I wish I didn’t feel this way — what’s so important about finishing a book if I’m happy reading the ones I’ve got? And I am happy reading them. But I still begin to get anxious. This is the only drawback with reading multiple books at once, I’ve found. Since I don’t like to abandon any book for too long, I find myself switching back and forth amongst all my books very frequently, which means I don’t spend much time with each one, which means it takes me forever to finish what I’ve got.

Part of this feeling comes from the fact that I’m in the middle of two really big books, the Johnson bio and Proust. I’m enjoying them both — so why am I anxious to finish them? I’m also reading a book of poems, Marie Howe’s What the Living Do, which I’m liking a lot and will post on later, but I’m wishing I could get to this one more frequently. It’s the one I neglect most often, just because reading poetry takes just enough more effort that when I’m tired I won’t do it. I’m still working on The Best American Essays 2006, determined to finish the thing — and I’m finding some good essays mixed in with the mediocre ones.

And I’m also in the middle of Special Topics in Calamity Physics. I’m not sure what I think about it. At times I find myself a bit bored (which doesn’t help the anxious feeling that I need to finish it); some parts make me wonder if they are really necessary — if they add to the plot or to the ideas. The first-person voice is funny at times, moving at times, irritating at others. More on this book later.

Finally, a meme from Booking Through Thursday:

  1. How many books would you say you read in an average month? These days, 5 or 6. But this month I finished 3, only one of which I began in February, and one of which I began last November (a Proust volume).
  2. In a year? Last year it was 56.
  3. Over the last five years? I have no idea. I didn’t keep records in 2005, but at some point last year I tried to remember and recall only 31. Before that, I have no record at all. But this was the time in which I wrote my dissertation (yes, it took five years, from beginning the proposal to finishing it), and my reading-for-pleasure time was limited. I did a lot of article-reading and academic book-skimming though.
  4. The last 10? No clue here either. But this covers the time I wrote my dissertation and the time I did my graduate coursework, so I know I read a decent number of books for classes. I didn’t read for fun while taking literature classes because I didn’t have time; once I finished these, I began reading for fun again and haven’t stopped since. But “reading for fun” isn’t so clearly opposed to reading for class — I took an awful lot of novel classes and so it didn’t always feel like work.

8 Comments

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8 responses to “Reading report

  1. I am very familiar with the anxiety of not finishing any books for several weeks. That’s usually when I try and focus on just one, the one I’m closest to finishing, just so I can have the satisfaction of completing something. I’m planning on reading Calamity Physics this summer. Your comments about it make me a little worried.

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  2. Stefanie — you might very well like it; it’s an odd book and I can see it provoking all kinds of reactions. And I haven’t really thought through my response yet — and my final thoughts probably won’t be all negative.

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  3. Brandon

    I know how you feel. I get anxious too; it’s like you’re not getting anywhere with reading. That’s why I can’t have more than two or three books going at once. Plus, it keeps me from feeling overwhelmed. I’ve been slogging through “Les Liaisons” for the last month, but it’s also a slow book. I’m getting impatient to the point where I might just set it aside, since I’ve read it before, but I’m also a little more than halfway through it, which is like the point of no return for me. My biggest problem seems to be getting back into reading; if I’ve read every book I want to, I find it difficult to start another one. I’m a mood reader. If I find myself becoming obsessed with reading a certain book, I know I’m back on track. But if the obsession isn’t there, forget it.

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  4. I totally understand that anxiousness. I think that is why I tend to shy away from really long books (even though I really like them) as I know they take longer to read and I will have to spend more time on them and not on other books. I know it only matters that I am enjoying reading, but there is always that sense of accomplishment attached to finishing a book…and of course the fun of starting something new!

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  5. Pauline

    While I can understand that anxiety, don’t you love to be immersed for a while into a new world, like only a longer book can do? Sometimes I even delay finishing a book, just to stay in this world a little longer. It doesn’t really matter how many books you finish, just how many good books you get the chance to discover. Maybe this anxiety comes from being not really satisfied with what you’re reading?

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  6. Dorothy, I know just how you feel. I was reading The Handmaid’s Tale when suddenly I started Anna Karenina at the same time. They are both good, but not fast reads, and throw in the non-fiction that’s hanging around and a French novel I’m also reading and – bam! Suddenly it’s not so much fun any more. When I figure out the answer, I’ll get back to you!

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  7. I had to do a reading cleanse. I returned all my library books. I stopped all the books I wasn’t reading . I chose one off my shelves. I am reading it, and only it. this is not the time in my life to be reading multiple books, unfortunately. I also returned all dvd’s rented and got rid of tivo, but this is a post for my own blog, probably!

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  8. Brandon — I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who gets anxious like this! And when this happens, I feel the need to cut down on the number of books I’ve got going. Five is too many right now.

    Danielle — yes, this makes me less likely to pick up a long book, but I do like reading long ones! I can wait for the summer when I have more time, but still summers aren’t long enough for all the long books I want to read!

    Pauline, yes, I do love that about long books, that, well, they last a long time. You’re right that it doesn’t matter how many books I read; I know my anxiety is irrational, but it’s still hard to get rid of sometimes. I think I care too much about lists and numbers and would like to care more about the experiences I’m having rather than how many books I’ve read.

    Litlove, I find myself getting into this fix very innocently too. All those long books look so good, and I know this time will be different, and I won’t feel overwhelmed and will have learned patience — this time I won’t do those same old things🙂

    Courtney — that sounds like a good idea, to recognize that your situation was just not working and to start all over again. I hope you are enjoying that one book!

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