From time to time I must decide on my next writing project. Not being much of a planner when it comes to the creative part of my life, I have no journal full of novel or short story ideas waiting in the wings.
As a reader, I am no more organized. In fact, I usually dread finishing a book, because I know what comes next – the big decision. Which book will lay claim to twenty or so hours of my life? There’s always a stack of publications that for one reason or another have made it onto my “read in the near future” list. Narrowing them down to one title, however, is the problem. During the last couple of years I have begun to allow myself the option of not finishing a book. This helps the decision-making process slightly, but then of course I have to deal with the guilt, the possibility that if I had just persisted for a few more pages I might have become engrossed in a real gem.
When I was a student, it was easy. I was given a reading list and I delved into it, secure in the knowledge that I was doing the right thing. Although not as binding, I still have external influences to help nudge me toward my final choice. As a member of a book club, our monthly pick provides me with some guidance. If I attend a book launch, a hot-off-the-press signed copy automatically goes to the top of my pile. Another sure-fire way for a book to jump the cue is if it relates in some way to whatever I am currently writing. A new book by a favourite author is usually a sure thing, and tips from friends are always welcome. Sometimes I will choose a read to coincide with a social or cultural celebration such as Black History Month. When all else fails, there’s always the appeal of cover art.
Let’s face it, there is just so much choice, more than ever before thanks primarily to technology. Every day I see or hear about several books that I would love to read. Everything from new releases to classics from the English canon tantalizes me. And then of course there are my old favourites that collect dust on my bookshelves. I see those well-worn covers, and repeatedly vow to take the time for a revisit. It almost never happens.
Some of my friends take part in planned reading challenges such as 52 Books in 52 Weeks, the 2016 Reading Challenge, or the 2016 Bingo Reading Challenge. The idea of being involved appeals to me, but I know myself too well. Rather than enjoying the motivation, before long I would feel pressure, and grow to resent the constraints to which I had agreed.
Writing this rather whiny post reinforces for me what I actually do know, but occasionally need to acknowledge. I am very fortunate. At this time and in this place I have easy access to more books and more information than I could hope to read in a lifetime. Had I been born a hundred years ago, it would have been a very different story. In her youth even my own mother’s access to books was limited, but she read with relish anything she could obtain. I, however, am surrounded not only by all the volumes on my shelves, but also by a wonderful public library system, brick and mortar bookstores, e-books, and thousands of online portals to every imaginable publication.
Of course that brings me back to my original issue: what will I read next?
Maybe my ramblings here have struck a chord with you. If so, I’d love to hear how you make your reading decisions. What’s your favourite book? Recommendations are welcome.