reading · reading projects

Plans and Lists

One day in late October, inspired by Manguel’s A Reading Diary (in which he writes about the favorite books he is re-reading, relating them to his personal life and also to current world events and circumstances) I made a list of heavy books, (meaning five hundred to thousand pages or more) patiently piling up on bookshelves for more than a decade, and resolved to read them, finally – one each month, in the course of a year.. I was never engaged in any self-imposed reading plan before, finding them incompatible with my personality and reading preferences. But, as I have said, the books I planned to read were the ones I wanted to read for many months/years and I thought I should give it a try. I thought the list would be motivational. But, since I am who I am, I added another twelve books to the list… And then twelve more…

Now, two months later, two problems have emerged:

  • I am under a mild pressure, feeling I HAVE TO read each and every one of the three books assigned for a certain month. I struggled, very often, to maintain my normal reading pace, fighting the dangers of what-happens-next kind of reading and simply trying to read comprehensively… What is worst, while reading the first book, there was always, somewhere in the back of my mind, a thought of the other two books – will I manage to get to them?… And, just to make things even more difficult, returning The Sleepy Hollow, I was unable to leave the library without a book so, in November, between a voluminous The People from Juvik, a demanding The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis and a refreshing Love in Cold Climate I somehow managed to read All the Pretty Horses (McCarthy was a delightful discovery, an author I intend to come back to joyfully).. Under the pressure.. I don’t want to feel like this next ten months!
  • I started to feel anxiety because of the ‘definiteness’ of the list. What have I done?, I ask myself. Why did I had to add another twelve and then twelve more books to the list that would have probably been a well-functioning reading plan, one that I wouldn’t have the urge to abandon? I was almost enslaved by my own list, feeling uncomfortable not only changing it (having newly acquired Kurkov instead of Bronte) but also rearranging it (moving War and Peace to February, or Quiet Flows the Don to January)? I should feel free to change it or rearrange it anytime I want!

It had to end. No questions about it. I realized, a year-long reading plan is too dispiriting and unsettling. I stuck to it for these two months and that is as long as my endurance could last. It doesn’t matter that I want to read all those books – I need to be free to choose when. As I have always been.

I should delete the Off the Bookshelf page since it serves no purpose anymore, but I won’t. The list is too pretty, nice to look at. I’ll leave it to be a reminder of this little experiment.

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4 thoughts on “Plans and Lists

  1. Reading lists always seem like a good idea and then seem to arbitrary for people like us, who like to go where our imaginations and wants take us. I would definitely leave the lists on and just change the parameters to a work in progress and you intend to read all the books at some point as that is an impressive achievement and one that most people wouldn’t even try and attempt.

    1. I am not sure about it.. I will read those books, eventually, for sure, but, reading them ‘eventually’ doesn’t have the same feeling to it as reading them during the course of a year. It is not a project anymore..
      I still haven’t decided what to do so, I’ll let it rest in public for a little longer. :)
      I made a kind of a problem out of nothing, it seems…

  2. I can relate to this issue. When I first started blogging I got over enthusiastic by all the challenges I saw and ended up doing far too many. It felt like I was just reading to tick a box. So I stopped and focused on my own projects instead. Please don’t remove that list, it’s a gold mine.

    1. It definitely can be overwhelming – this online book community. I’m seeing appealing challenges everywhere, but I know I am not suited for such things. I’ve tried twice.
      I like the list, too, so it stays. :)

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