In the past three or four years my reading habits have changed. For one I have had to read a lot of academic texts because I am in graduate school. After studying for four hours and more on an average every day, there is only so much energy I have left for reading fiction. Consequently, my fiction reading has dropped considerably (and I do not like this one bit). Secondly and this is perhaps more important, I have started second guessing myself – a lot. After having exposed myself to lists like, ’100 must read books before you die’, ’50 best novels of the twentieth century’, I have tried to consciously change the genres I read. Along with the other things impacting my life what has resulted is that I am preoccupied with questions like, ‘What should I be reading as a reader? What is it that will make me a well-rounded reader? Is there a better way to read books? Should I be giving more careful attention to details I tend to skim through? Should I change the pace at which I read? Should I be reading a book from cover to cover?’ These questions have taken the center stage and what has happened is that I have picked up books and not finished them. This is not just a rare occurrence for me, it is a new one. And to add to that I have had too many of these recently.
What these ‘lists’ tend to do for me is make reading like a job. Like a to-do list. But reading for me was also about discovery! The process started as soon as I walked into a bookstore, randomly picked up a book which caught my eye and then finished the book at home (and occasionally marvel at how smart I was that I had the foresight to spot a rare gem). But if somebody has already found these gems and compiled a list of them, that takes away half the fun. This and asking myself too many questions have made the reading experience different for me.
I do not know whether a term exists but for me this phase has been something of a ‘reader’s block’. It has taken a while for me to realize that what I should be doing is just reading. Forget lists. Forget how it is supposed to feel. Forget asking myself too many questions. But simply read for the reason I got into reading, for fun and without agenda. And I am delighted to tell you that I have started doing the same again.
What do you guys think? Have you ever experienced a similar phase? Is it possible you experienced this if not in reading but in something else? Maybe in writing? Maybe at work? I must mention, the openness to change is a positive one, but I think when we force it or try too many changes at the same time (which I was doing), it kills the experience or the natural enjoyment one derives. I think change should be organic. You want to add on to things that already exist, you want to experiment, not replace them entirely.