I find television to be very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go in the other room and read a book. ~Groucho Marx
Since 2001 I've kept a book journal, a record of all the books I've read. Sometimes I only note the title and author; other times I'll write a one or two word review, nothing in depth. If it's particularly spectacular I'll draw a little star by the notation. If anyone recommended it to me I'll usually write that as well.
It's fun to thumb through it and see how my reading tastes have changed. I used to be a big fan of a genre some call Chick Lit. I found comfort and hope in tales of twenty-something urban women trying to find love and get ahead in a career. Red Dress Ink novels, in particular, were my favorites.
I can pinpoint the time when the genre began to sour for me - in the summer of 2004 I tried to read a book by Jane Green, a British author I'd enjoyed immensely before. I wrote in my journal, "Can I be tiring of Chick Lit?" Yes, in fact. I was 26 then, about the right age to give it up.
I made notes in the margins when I began dating someone new and, inevitably, when we broke up. All of my ex-boyfriends inspired some reading choices - I still shake my head over the fact that I read James Carville's and Paul Begala's book Buck Up, Suck Up or Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code - both books that my exes swore I had to read. Blecch. One ex did recommend Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Woolf's Orlando, both great reads. (Coincidence that he was my "best" ex-boyfriend?)
Since I began the journal I've read anywhere from 49 to 82 books a year. I wonder what all this reading has done for me. I've had people tell me that they don't read much because they'd rather be out living life. There's definitely a segment of the population who feel that reading is done at the expense of direct life experience. I think there's some truth in that.
I know that I've been a voracious, almost obsessive reader for at least that past few years now. I know that I've indulged in books instead of facing the challenge of a blank page and actually writing. I've know deep down that I was using reading as a crutch, keeping my fears about writing at arm's length.
Since I've started this blog I've had trouble concentrating on reading and making good selections. I take this as a sign I'm heading in a good direction.
I will always be a reader. I'll have to blog sometime soon about my love for books - I feel like this post is giving them a bad rap! Reading is part of my identity, just like wearing glasses or my infamous sweet tooth. But I'm more aware now of my tendency to put off doing things that scare me by losing myself in a novel. I don't think reading is any less legitimate a hobby or passion than any other. One can get lost in playing cards, snowshoeing, or baking just as easily as reading, right? Surely there is room for both books and a live fully lived?