I have a confession to make. I'm a writer who's not an avid reader. My home is not filled with mountains and mountains of books. I don't have more bookshelves than I have space to put them. And generally, I only read one book at a time.
Does this mean I'm not well read? No. It means I'm not a reader concerned with impressing others. If you walk into my home looking to judge me based on my personal library, you're going to make a lot of false assumptions about me.
After years of reading the classics, the anthologies, the Great Books, I'm comfortable with the knowledge that my literary education may not be exhaustive, but it certainly isn't lacking. And with that in mind, reading has become an oasis serving many purposes in my life.
Sometimes, I'm compelled to read purely for fun (Stuff Parisians Like, Bitter Is The New Black). Other times, my political mind needs tending to (Worse Than Watergate, The Truth With Jokes). And of course, culture and history have always been a major draw for me (Auguste Rodin: Sculptures and Drawings; Furious Improvisation: How the WPA and a Cast of Thousands Made High Art out of Desperate Times).
Most importantly, it's never about approval. Maybe it's my inner Daria, but nothing I truly enjoy can ever be treated like a contest. Sadly, some feel that reading is just that. Rarely do I engage in a conversation about reading for leisure and it doesn't feel like one increasingly tense competition. How many books do you read in a month? Have you read the new [fill in the popular author]? Do you prefer a Nook or a Kindle?
The wondrous world of getting lost in a book of your own choosing has become more and more about who uses the most free time reading the most popular books with the most expensive toy on the market. I'm happy to say I have no desire to participate in this game, but a part of me does wish to understand it.
I borrow 9 out of 10 books I read. If not from the library, then from friends or family. And as I mentioned, I'm a slow reader. Usually I read one book at a time, but at times, I've had three going at once until I get so carried away in one that I often neglect the other two for weeks.
I read celebrity biographies, folktales from Haiti and Ireland, professional advice on freelancing, and InDesign tricks and techniques. The main reason I purchase a book at all is to get it signed by the author at an event.
But I know not everyone is me. I don't expect others to enjoy the books I read. Nor do I expect anyone to pledge to read only the printed page. That's simply what suits me. E-readers hold no lifestyle advantage for me, so you won't see me with one. However, if it works for you, I say go for it. All I ask is that you don't suck me into your world of "competitive reading."
Instead, let's respect the choices others make with their time, interests and finances. There are those who can't help but see a Dan Brown or Jodi Picoult novel on someone's coffee table and cringe. Others can't stop bragging about how many books they've downloaded in the last month. Sadly, our judgmental nature only leads to people hiding their true selves out of fear of losing the "contest."
Over the years, I've read everything from classical literature to romance novels to Calvin & Hobbes' joke books to encyclopedias. (Yes. When I was a kid, I would sit down and literally reads entries from the encyclopedia for fun.) As a result, I feel far more relaxed about reading wherever my heart takes me.
Your personal library is, regardless of size and content, its own reward. Never let someone steal that treasure away from you by reducing your joy of reading to a race. Whether reading is your hobby or your vocation, remember it is not a competition.
What are some of your unique reading habits? Do you feel your reading list is in a contest when you share it with others?