Thursday, October 3, 2013

Spending too much time reading? How to kill your desire in hundreds and hundreds of pages...

If you read the websites of literary agencies, (which I do) you will often be given the advice to read widely.  There was a time when I considered myself a voracious reader.  However, last year I undertook a project to read all of the unread books on my shelf.  This is what I discovered: They were unread for a reason.  The undertaking almost killed my desire to read completely.  Invariably, all of the books that comprised my To-Be-Read pile were hundreds and hundreds of pages long.  There was Anna Karenina, Middlemarch, Villette and  The Aenied--to name a few and they almost destroyed my love of books.  Perhaps if I had interspersed some more enjoyable titles into the mix, it wouldn't have been so devastating to my reading habits, but instead I slogged away--sometimes only a page at a time--and then almost stopped reading fiction altogether in an effort to make the pain stop.

I have learned a few crucial things as a result, though.

1) Certain 'classics' need a lot of editing.  And, if there is an abridged version of the novel you are about to pick up (Anna Karenina, I'm talking to you) you should most definitely read that version.
2) Not every book deserves to be finished. Some books are hard work but they are rewarding in their own way.  Others are not.  The Aenied was not.  Am I in a Greek and Romans Studies class? Nope? No reason to finish it then.  Anna Karenina had some reward, but man, she made me work for it.

Since I want to reclaim my love of reading, (and obey the dictates of literary agents) I have undertaken a new reading program and signed up for a library membership in order to accomplish it.
 Reading for pure enjoyment.  As a result of this new rubric, I've ploughed through several titles.

-Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
-The Age of Miracles by Karen Walker Thompson
-The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald
-The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
-Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson

Now, instead of dreading my bedside table, I look forward to what is next.

How do I hate thee, Hair Salons? Let me count the ways.

(I published a previous version of this article earlier this week in which I tried to be measured and composed. Turns out, it did not nearly...