I’ve been on an expedition of reading this year. In January, I committed myself to reading fifty books in 2016 and to using the Goodreads reading challenge tool to track my progress. I’m proud to say that as of June 30, I was right on track at 50% achieved. And that’s not counting the many articles, essays, and poems I’ve read in journals, magazines, and newspapers, both online and on paper.
I’m reading deliberately, in order to broaden my knowledge and understanding of literature and craft, and I’m also allowing myself to follow my deepest interests, which draws me toward certain books and away from others. There will never be enough time to read everything I’d like to be able to read in my lifetime. I have to make hard choices about what material I allow to take up my precious reading time. I purposely choose to alternate between genres and mediums. I purposely choose to read authors who are both similar to and different from myself in obvious ways. I purposely choose to read what interests me the most right now, at this point in my life and at this point in the history of the universe.
There is no way to consume the amount of information I would like to be able to digest. I find myself interested in so many varied topics and I’m not inclined in this moment to focus too long on any one thing. Still, there are patterns in my reading, ideas I return to or come at from different angles. Loss, being lost, choosing to get lost. How to move through the world, to be fully present without being destroyed, to participate in an authentic way. Connection. Fear.
I’m inspired in some way by nearly everything I read. The best books are the ones that get my mind fired up to think about some aspect of life or the world in a new way, or to construct a piece of writing in a way I’d never before considered. The best books make me want to immediately sit down and start writing something new myself. They pull me out of the mucky headspace I sometimes get mired in because they give me permission to be as strange on the page as I am inside my own head. They remind me that my labeling my own ideas as “strange” is only my fear of judgment holding me back, because look, here are some very “strange” ideas from another person’s brain that made it into a published book that other people have bought and read and appreciated and thought were pretty great. And sure, some people really hated that book, too, but that’s okay because every book is not for every person. Sometimes I read books that other people adore and I think meh, this one isn’t for me and that’s perfectly fine, just as it’s fine that what I write isn’t everyone’s thing.
These books I’m reading are mentors for both my work and my life. They are teaching me how to be curious and inquisitive, how to be courageous and kind. They are a collage of individual strengths and gifts that I can refer to when I’m struggling to figure out my own worth and to find my own path. I have no regrets about the hours I’ve spent with my head in a book, only that I allowed so many years to pass without reading all I could have.