Monday, July 21, 2014

4 Easy Steps to Take Charge of Your To-Be-Read Pile

Step 1: Throw out all the books I didn't write.

Problem solved.

In seriousness, though, readers have to-be-read piles. In what sense would we be readers if we didn't? And, if you're anything like me, your to-be-read pile is so large that you hide from it and read Harry Potter for the twentieth time rather than tackle the ever-mounting stack of literature threatening to topple down upon you.

Breathe. As much as I like Harry Potter... 

(and I do like it)...

we can't just go back to Hogwarts constantly. Or Westeros. Or Narnia, Panem, Cloral, and Wonderland. It just doesn't work that way. We need to grow and expand our minds, and the best way we as readers know to do that is to read. Read different things.

But fear not. It's not as hard as you think. It just takes a small amount of work on your part, and soon that to-be-read pile will slowly shrink down to something manageable.

Step 1 (The Actual Step 1): Don't stress about time. You probably have books that are a couple years old, and you just know that you need to read them, and you know that you should really read them before the half-dozen you just bought today, even though you really want to read your new books.

Breathe. Remember that. Just breathe. If you own a book, that means you own it. Plain and simple. You can read your personal books whenever and however you want. Reverse alphabetical order by the author's middle name? Absolutely fine. The order you buy books in doesn't have anything to do with the order you read them in. We do this for entertainment above anything else. So read what you think is going to entertain you today, not what's been on the shelf the longest.

Step 2: Library/borrowed books have a time limit. It really is something to remember. While I think Step 1 is more important, it's pretty vital to remember Step 2 as well. Books you borrow are like dear old friends who live across the country. You can only enjoy their company for a little while before they have to go back home. Still always read the book that claws for your attention the most, but if you have a library book or a book on loan from someone else versus a book that is wholly yours, at least consider whizzing through the borrowed book first.

Step 3: Remember whose to-be-read pile this is. It's not your neighbor's, or the Internet's, or mine or The New York Times' or Levar Burton's or anyone else's but your own. You don’t have to read anything you don't want to, no matter what anyone or anything might tell you. Tried Shakespeare? Good. Didn't like it? Good. Don't proceed to add 'The Complete Unabridged Works of William Shakespeare' to your pile. You won't get to it, and it's just going to add to your guilt. Focus on things you want to read.

Already have books that have been recommended, but just don't hold your interest? Purge them. Get them out of that pile. Sell them, donate them, keep them, use them to perform interpretive dance. Hell, send them my way, if you want to. I can always use more books. Just get them out of there. Don't worry about what anyone else thinks and read what you want and only what you want.

Step 4: Find time to read. This is the final step, and I'd say it's far and away the most important step. You have to find time to go through your pile. After all, you can't very well expect it to go down if you never touch it. So make time to get some reading done, realize how much time you actually have, and work with that. Don't get hard on yourself if it takes you a month or more to finish Les Miserables when you only have 10-15 minutes a day.

If you don't think you can make time to read, you're wrong. Audio books on the commute to work or in the shower. A book for bathroom breaks and lunch breaks and ankle breaks… wait. Back that one up. Don't break your ankle just to find more time to read. You have time. Heck, you just spent time reading this blog post, didn't you? And tomorrow, you'll have those five minutes extra to read your book.

Just do me a favor and read. It's good for us authors, and it's good for the world as a whole. After all: more art is a never a bad thing. But mostly, it's good for you. And that's what really counts.


No comments :