Until recently, it never occurred to me that there are so many different ways to approach reading. More than that, I didn’t realize how different the experience of each approach could be. Reading has always been about picking up a book that looks interesting and reading until I get to the end. But over the past few months, I’ve experimented with when and why I read a book, as well as with whom, in addition to just which books I choose.
Books come to me from all different sources. There are books all over my apartment, waiting to be read, and my frequent and beloved trips to bookstores are forever enlarging my collection. There’s the library, where I can get pretty much any book that sparks my fancy. There are publishers and authors who want to get new books into the hands of bloggers. There are generous bloggers who give away books. The list goes on.
There are also, as I’m discovering, myriad ways to structure my reading. I can read at whim, guided only by what appeals to me at the moment. I can read with other people, joining readalongs and book groups or opening my reading up to other readers (which is how Reading Buddies came about). I can join challenges and allow their requirements to determine what I’ll read. I can read backlist or focus on the neverending list of new releases. Again, the possibilities seem endless.
The past few months have been a sort of experiment for me. I’ve joined a few challenges, read with other people, picked up some older books I’ve meant to read and reviewed new books before they’ve been published. My books have come from all the sources listed above, and more. As a result, I’ll admit I’ve felt a little scattered. In wanting to try everything, at times I’ve bitten off a little more than I could chew.
What’s been great about these months of trial and error, though, is that I’ve finally started to figure out how I read best. It turns out challenges, which appeal to me in theory because they are creative ways of pushing reading boundaries, actually stress me out and make reading less fun. At the same time, though, I don’t like reading completely at whim; that approach is too unfocused for me. It seems the way of reading I love best is twofold: first, I like having loose goals, an approach I tried out for the first time at the beginning of this year; and second, I love reading with other people. I feel so productive crossing books off my list of goals; I also really enjoy knowing I’m reading a book along with other people and having the opportunity to discuss it in a more in-depth way than other approaches allow.
I’ve also learned more about what mix of books is best for me. I love including classics in my reading, which isn’t something I thought I’d ever say. My Classics Reclamation Project has kept me reading them, and so far I’ve read or listened to eleven books I wouldn’t have read without my project. I also enjoy reading new releases, though I’ve discovered that if I accept too many, I quickly become overwhelmed. In the future, I’ll be focusing on choosing only books that really appeal to me and making sure they’re spaced out enough that I can get to each one. I’ve also discovered that, while the library is a wonderful resource and I always love acquiring new-to-me books, I really love reading the books I already own. I purchased them for a reason, and so many of the ones I’ve finally read from my own shelves have been great. I’m glad the TBR Dare got me to finally pay attention to the books I’ve been living with for years.
This post serves as my formal withdrawal from the few challenges in which I’ve been participating. I hope to read the books I’d have read for them anyway, but in my own time. I know I’ll enjoy them more that way, and my reading in general will be less stressful.
I also want to take the time to sincerely thank the people who have joined and will join me in my Reading Buddies endeavor, both formally with the monthly reads and informally, inviting me to join you in reading a book or offering to join me. It makes me happier than you know!
How do you prefer to read? How did you figure out what works best for you?