Friday 13 June 2014

Blog Every Day in June Day 13 : Confessions of a terrible reader

I am a terrible reader, terrible. I can devour a book in just a couple of days / sleepless nights, or just as easily go months and months without so much as cracking open the front cover. I will abandon a perfectly good novel to start another one for no particular reason, and leave them both unfinished to fight it out against the impressively tall and dusty Jenga-like tower of books next to my bed.

Once people find out you are a librarian, they also assume you know a lot about current novels and have read most of the titles in top book lists, asking you for recommendations, even if you happen to be working in a specialist accounting library at the time. True story.

I occasionally miss the obsessive ‘reading as important as breathing’ mindset that served me so well all through primary and high school. I can however pinpoint the approximate timeframe where I lost that fire well over a decade ago during The Years I Spent Studying English Literature at University.

I am no good at enforced reading, I can’t do bookclubs, I can’t do ‘reading challenges’. Conversations about books and writing that last longer than a few minutes make me shudder at memories of sitting in English tutorials dissecting stories, writers, themes and writing styles. How could studying the one thing that has always given me such great joy lead to such great misery?

In a panic and looking for redemption (or perhaps vindication) I once wrote to Super Librarian Nancy Pearl years ago and she (surprisingly) wrote back, advising me that life is too short to read something when your heart isn’t really in it. Phew, thanks Nancy. I do feel less and less guilty about this non-habit of reading as I get older.

So I embrace the haphazard reader that I have become. I read a lot more essays now, longer critical pieces in magazines or via Longreads. I still love poems and short stories the most. I am always amazed at how hilariously judgmental people can be towards others about reading styles, genres, favourite authors, even reading formats (the e-book vs. print debate never fails to make me roll my eyes and scream silently on the inside). Surely, reading is the thing that counts? Read, read anything, just read.

The book that currently has my attention (it’s short, non fiction, and fascinating, so I am optimistic about my chances of seeing this through to the last page) is actually about a reading challenge of sorts. The author has set herself the task of reading a random shelf of books in a NYC library, from LEQ to LES to be exact. Yes, me the terrible reader, is reading a real life account about extreme reading, how very meta.

I would love to hear about your own reading habits, or interesting challenges you’ve set yourself, and especially…how you regularly carve out reading time for yourself.

Here are some reading challenges that I like the idea of, but will never attempt:

-The 2014 Australian Women Writers Challenge (self explanatory really) #AWW2014
-The Miles of Reading Challenge (read all of the shortlisted Miles Franklin award titles)
-The Shakespeare Challenge (all the plays, all the poems and sonnets)
-The Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge (just a small list of almost 350 books that this young woman either mentioned or was seen reading during the 7 seasons of Gilmore Girls)

Find out what classification of reader you are using this infograph by Laura E. Kelly.

You can read an excerpt of The Shelf: Adventures in Extreme Reading by Phyllis Rose here 

-Maria Savvidis @m_savvidis
Social Media Officer, ALIA Sydney

In the interest of full disclosure, all my books are organised strictly by the colour spectrum (eg. my 'orange' shelf) which makes it very beautiful and impossible to find anything. Yes, I am actually a librarian.  

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