Reading challenges and blogs are usually a happy topic, but today I’d like to talk about a different sort of reading challenge: Reading List Avoidance. This is not the same as reading burnout or general reading avoidance that can often impact a reader after an exceptionally exquisite reading experience. This is all about the avoidance of reading from a list of books. And not just any list, but one happily created by the reader who is now doing the avoidance.
When I first signed up for The Classics Club in September I had visions of reading two books per month from the list. Or at least 1.5 books per month. I have five years, after all. I read one book, started another, and then it hit me: Reading List Avoidance. It’s only been a few months since I made the list and already I’ve become resistant to reading from it. I love making lists, but following through on the actual reading of them is another story.
It’s not that I have a blatant resentment of this list, like, say, a non-bookworm high school student facing required reading in English class. These are books that I’ve longed to read, but now that I’ve put them on a list, other books suddenly start to look awfully appealing. Books on display at the library or bookstore that normally wouldn’t catch my eye now become the book that I really want to/have to read in the moment.
I first discovered that I was prone to Reading List Avoidance when I was in graduate school. The masters program I attended required students to take coursework in three areas of concentration and comprehensive written exams in two other areas. The exams entailed reading a lengthy list of books on a topic or period and then sitting for a timed, hand-written test.
For my areas of concentration I chose Great Plains Literature and then petitioned the department to create my own comprehensive reading list on Lesbian Literature. Creating that list was super fun. This was in pre-internet days, so it involved flipping through lots of books and periodicals and actually talking with people like librarians and professors to create a fairly comprehensive and historically meaningful list.
However, as soon as my committee approved the list, the actual reading of it quickly became work. But I made it through and since none of my advisers were especially well-read in lesbian lit, they chose to execute the exam orally (I know), so it was more like a conversation between four bookworms than a scary test. I wish I still had that list, but, alas, I cannot find it.
Anyway, my point being is that while it was great fun to make a list of classics that I’ve been wanting to read–and still do want to read–now I’m resistant to reading from this list. I was at the library this weekend and had a stack of books in my arms before I realized what I was doing: Reading List Avoidance. I thought about all the unread books I already had at home, some of which are on that self selected classics list. I put the library books back and came home to my own book shelves, but I’ve yet to start reading my next classic.
Do you suffer from Reading List Avoidance? If so, how do you psych yourself out of it?