Reading… lots of things, slowly

I have yet to finish a book in April. In some ways that makes me sad. GoodReads informs me that I’m four books ‘ahead’ of my target. But for the most part, it isn’t that I haven’t been reading, it’s just that I’m reading more things slowly.

Over the past couple of years since I’ve been setting myself reading goals, my habits have changed. One of the first things I found when I made reading a deliberate action rather than a fortunate occurrence was that I actually finish more books if read them one at a time. Focus is good for me. Perhaps this is related to how much I invest in what I’m reading – reading just one thing is less exhausting. That is particularly pertinent to fiction in some ways, but equally, non-fiction takes a certain amount of attention just to be able to absorb the information and follow the arguments a writer is making.

But this year one of my goals is not just to read a certain number of books but to broaden the genres those books are coming from. Originally, I was just hoping to shift the novels I read slightly away from YA into adult fiction because of the skew in my reading last year, but what’s surprised me is how drawn I am right now to non-fiction.

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I’m reading three books at the moment. It’s a bit easier to have several books on the go when they’re in different genres, but I’m still convinced that it slows my reading down in general. Every time I pick one up, I’m not just rejoining it from the buzz of normal life, I’m also having to pick up the threads of the book itself and put down the threads of whatever I was reading before, even when they have nothing to do with one another. And in general, I have been struggling to tune out the buzz of normal life as a start.

The solution would seem to be just to read one thing at a time. Yet I’m struggling to have the attention span for that either – I’m so distracted by what I could be reading that before I’m engrossed in one thing, I’m thinking about what might come next. I remember how amazing the others I’m ‘currently reading’ are and have to resist the urge to swap again. My shelves are full of amazing books I haven’t read yet, and so they’re full of temptation. I’m wandering around desperate to sink into a book but unable to commit to one properly, which leaves me floating book to book, feeling like I’m doing none of them justice because every time I pick it up again, it takes me a page to realise I read this chapter already. I’m reading lots of things in a shallow way, and it makes me sad. I want to be a thoughtful reader, not a skimmer, and I want to be diving in to all of the amazing things there are to be reading.

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I’m not calling it a ‘reading slump’, because I have still been reading – it’s just that I’m finding it difficult to sink into at the moment. When people ask me what the secret to reading more is, I always say that it’s just making the time to do it – and that is still true in this situation. I will get through at least some books this month just by making myself sit down and read where I’ve made the time to. But I’m missing the feeling of setting aside an hour to lose myself in a book and accidentally spending three or four; the feeling of forgetting to check my phone; of staying in the bath until it’s gone cold; of realising that it’s past midnight and I should be going to sleep; that sensation of being entranced and carried away, of being in another world. My feet and brain are stubbornly attached to my own world at the moment, which could be one explanation for my current attraction to non-fiction.

At the moment I’m reading The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon. It’s been a while since I picked this up, because the prose is fantastic and I knew I was forgetting it, which I didn’t want to. I need to stop making that excuse really.

I’m also reading It’s Okay to Laugh by Nina McInerny Purmort, which is very funny and sad, but also written in quite blog-like chunks rather than essay-length chunks, which makes it easy to read in very little bits, so I’m actually moving through that at a fairly steady pace.

The last book I’m reading is New Light: 12 Quaker Voices ed. by Jennifer Kavanagh, which I’m just finding very interesting and comforting – as may have been inferred by some of my reading this year, I’ve recently moved toward Quakerism and books on the subject have been incredibly important to me this year. They obviously count as books I’ve read, but otherwise they sit a bit outside my other reading – they are for a different purpose, and my response to them is entirely different to my response to anything else.

Do you have any tips for getting back into fiction when you feel a bit stuck in the real world? If so, let me know in comments… I want to get back to those magical worlds!Book Only

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