Managing My Addiction (To Reading)

I’ve always been a reader, but my reading activity has varied throughout my life depending on interest and time available. There have been chunks of years that I didn’t read at all…like in college (let’s pretend I was too busying studying) or when I got my first DVR (again…STUDYING). And while I haven’t had any NO BOOK years since 2010 when I found a book club, some months the only thing I read is the book club selection.

The obsession phases are the other extreme…the times when reading actually complicated other areas of my life. Like when I discovered the “adult” fiction section of the library in middle school and I would rush to finish tests or assignments just so I could get back to my Dean Koontz or my VC Andrews. Or when I first became a Mom and was exhausted from having a newborn; but I would sacrifice opportunities to sleep when he was sleeping…just so that I could finish the Clan of The Cave Bear series. Or when I literally stayed up all night reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix after the midnight release, only to be drunk with exhaustion at my wedding shower the next evening.

Downsizing our home meant we only have one bookshelf now so I make the most of it.

Most of those times of obsession have centered around a discovery of new authors or new series…both situations having finite endings. Eventually my life would get back to normal after the series was over or I had gotten bored with a new author.

But lately I’ve discovered I’m actually hitting the same level of obsession…with reading in general…which is infinite.

(For all practical purposes within a human lifespan.)

I hit the same reading slump early during the pandemic that a lot of people hit, I didn’t read anything for almost the first 12 weeks of lockdown. But since I picked up reading again in June, I have read so many great books that it’s almost like a switch flipped in my brain and now I’m just obsessing with READING ALL OF THE BOOKS. I’ve started reading 2-3 books at a time. I have one audiobook going at all times (working on my third one of the year and I don’t usually listen to audiobooks). I have a non-fiction going for reading over my first cup of coffee every morning. And then I always have a fiction for all of the other reading moments in my day.

I am also starting to constantly obsess over building lists of books to read and then worrying about what to read next. Normally there’s my hold list at the library or my “Want To Read” list on Goodreads to guide me, but I have been obsessively adding books to both lists during these last 2 months with all of the “Best of 2020” and “What to read in 2021” lists at every turn. I surpassed 100 books on that Goodreads shelf last week and I told myself: I am not going to add any more unless I remove one. I should not have more than 100 books that I “Want To Read” at any moment in time. And then this morning I saw there was 107 because I evidently just add books so regularly now I don’t even think about it.

And then there’s the thrifting problem. You see, I’ve always loved a good used book store but lately I have discovered that a lot of our thrift stores in town have good selections of books for $1-$2 and so I’ve been buying books I’ve wanted to read or have already read, but that I want to read again. WHAT SHELF DO I PUT THOSE BOOKS ON, GOODREADS?

So while I have 107 books on my “Want To Read” shelf on GOODREADS and I have several books on hold at the library…I also have several books on my actual bookshelves I’ve bought that I want to read, and I have books I’m reading with family members from their shelves.

OH…SIDENOTE: Here’s a the book from Eliah’s shelf that I’m going to read with him soon and it is THE BEST BOOK COVER EVER. It was published in 2016 but it looks like it came straight from my childhood and I love it.

Anyway. Where was I? Oh yeah. Obsessing with reading.

“But where’s the problem, Kim?” you might ask. “It looks like you’re just enjoying reading as an escape during a stressful time in the world and in your life!”

And you are right. Reading is really helping me in many different ways right now. It’s providing me with entertainment, escapism, and education when I’m feeling compelled to be more active or knowledgeable around current events or politics. THIS IS ALL A GOOD THING.

BUT. The problem comes with the “obsessing over what to read next” part of my reading habit. Right now my “To Read” lists are long and spread out and and they are starting to overwhelm me. Do you know what those of us who struggle with anxiety do when we are overwhelmed? NOTHING. Which means I’m on the edge of just not reading because I’m overwhelmed by my choices of what to read.

ESPECIALLY BECAUSE THERE ARE NEW “WHAT TO READ NEXT” ARTICLES CROSSING MY FEED EVERY DAY. CAN WE STOP PRINTING BOOKS FOR A FEW MONTHS SO I CAN CATCH UP?

If you know, you know.

SO! How do I keep myself from being so overwhelmed with all of the books I want to read that I don’t read anything?

  1. I will consolidate all of my “To Read” lists and shelves and piles of books into my Goodreads “Want To Read” shelf. (I will also spend some time purging that shelf as I’m certain there are books I’ve forgotten why I wanted to read them.) This way I have one list to consider and not several lists and shelves spread out across the internet and my house.
  2. Then, from there on out – NO MORE BOOKS GO ON THE LIST UNLESS TWO GO OUT. Either because I’ve read them or because I’ve deleted them because they are not in the top 100 books I want to read. (NOTE: I wish I could add notes to the books I add so I could remind myself why I wanted to read them.)
  3. Finally…I won’t read anything that is not on that “Want To Read” shelf. This means no more Thrift Store book shopping and no more browsing at the library. I will put the books on hold that I want to read and pick them up when they come in…NO IMPULSE CHECKOUTS OR BUYS JUST BECAUSE IT LOOKS GOOD.
  4. Iwill follow this method until I get down to 90 books on the “Want To Read” shelf. And then I can loosen my rules a little bit. I feel like 90 books will allow me to start adding books back to the shelf and then I can try to keep it under 100 again and be a bit more discerning about what I add to the list.

How do you decide what to read next? Right now I’m deciding based on how many renewals I have left on a book at the library. (I need to quit checking out popular books that can’t be renewed because too many people are waiting for them.) Do you get overwhelmed when you think about all of the new releases everyone is talking about versus all of the books from years past you wanted to read? How do you decide what to read next?

This post was cross-posted from my substack while my site is being cleaned up/transferred/de-spammed.

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