Every few months, I experience a dilemma that disturbs my peace of mind. It is one of the First Worldiest of my First World Problems; it’s something that really could not matter less, and yet I feel mild distress until the dilemma is resolved.
Picture it: me, sitting on the floor of my living room, with a stack of between 3 and 12 books in front of me, trying to answer a simple question –
What book should I read next?
It is an utterly unimportant question. It doesn’t matter at all. And yet – it’s a decision I have to make, and I often feel slightly off-kilter until it’s made.
This dilemma highlights a fact about me, something that I am guessing is not true for everyone. The fact is that I am always, always reading a book. I might set the book down to take care of children, to go to work, to operate heavy machinery – but on every single day of my life, there is a book somewhere, in my bag, on my nightstand, in my car, with a page dogeared because I am in the middle of reading it. If I finish a book, I immediately select a new book to read. Sometimes I read the book slowly, somethings quickly. But there is always a book.
The role that reading plays in my life is huge. Reading is my hobby, my joy, my coping skill, my graduate school, and the books I’ve read throughout my life have really made me the person I am today.
So when there ISN’T a book I’m currently reading – a situation that usually only lasts for a few moments or hours – I feel like something is really wrong.
Usually, the main book I am reading or about to read is a novel. I am a fiction girl. I love getting lost in a mysterious or suspenseful work of fiction. I read mostly contemporary fiction, and I often get recommendations from an awesome book-obsessed Facebook group that is amazingly called We Like Big Books and We Cannot Lie.
The dilemma is this: if I don’t have a novel that I am ready to read next (which happens occasionally), then I usually pick up a nonfiction book. I’m not a big reader of nonfiction, but there are 10 categories on nonfiction books currently on my bookshelf. Those books are there because I sincerely want to learn about these various topics.
HOWEVER. It’s really hard for me to commit to sitting down and read an entire book, cover to cover, on parenting or mindfulness or writing. My favorite way to read is one book at a time; I’d rather choose one book and read it from beginning to end than be reading two or more books at a time. But it’s hard for me to do that with nonfiction. Those books don’t tend to be as gripping to me, and now that I’m a parent, I don’t zoom through a book in two days. So I get a little antsy sticking with one nonfiction topic for a week or longer.
I also struggle with the challenge of wanting to have read a book. Like, No Drama Discipline by Daniel Siegel is on my list. I’ve read about 25% of the book, and it’s wonderful. But I can’t say that, at the end of a long day of work and parenting, I want to read that book. I just want the knowledge in that book to be surgically implanted in my head, really. (Is that possible? Please message me if you know of any free and painless knowledge implantation surgeries I should pursue.)
It’s a constant question I ask myself – how do I make myself read the books I want to read for the knowledge rather than for the entertainment value? I am always appreciative of a writer who can impart knowledge and be entertaining, but in my opinion, this is a rare talent.
I’m not going to answer that question today. I am going to list the ten categories of nonfiction books that are on my Goodreads “OMG What To Read” shelf as well as on my actual TBR (To Be Read) bookshelf:
- Writing: There are several books on my shelves (at all times) related to the craft of writing. They are mostly books that I’d love to read to improve my writing ability or learn more about how to write or the creative process.
- Mindfulness/Meditation: I love (in theory) reading books about how to incorporate mindfulness into my life. I also have a long-standing goal of maintaining a regular mindfulness or meditation practice.
- Sobriety: It’s always helpful for my sobriety to read AA literature or books about addiction and recovery. These are sometimes daily devotionals (a reading for every day of the calendar year) or a book devoted to a specific topic, like emotional sobriety or character defects.
- Parenting: SO. MANY. PARENTING. BOOKS. The books on my shelf recently are mostly related to discipline – how to teach wild and crazy toddlers to be functional human beings. It’s a topic of high importance at the moment.
- Race: This is a recent addition to my list of categories. I have several books on my list about race in America that I’d love to read – How To Be Black by Baratunde Thurston is at the top of my list. This is an ongoing interest of mine, but I’ve gotten increasingly interested in this topic due to current events and becoming a transracial adoptive parent.
- Spirituality: An ongoing interest of mine. The Untethered Soul and Traveling Mercies are both on my OMG What To Read list at the moment.
- Self-Help: This category often overlaps with spirituality or sobriety. But currently, the self-help books on my To Be Read list are focused on healthy eating; I’ve noticed that I (still) don’t have the healthiest relationship with food and eating, and there are several books on my TBR list focused on that issue.
- Humor: I have a bunch of memoirs and books of essays written by funny people on my shelf. These are technically nonfiction, but for me they would serve as a mental break rather than an educational resource.
- Adoption: I definitely want to learn as much as I can about issues related to adoption. I want to be an informed and aware adoptive parent for my boys.
- Transracial Adoption: Ditto to above. I want to educate myself about transracial adoption so that I can be the best parent possible to my kids.
This time around, it took me over a week of skimming various books to decide that I wanted to focus on two: This Is Where I Leave You, a novel by Jonathan Tropper, and The Mindful Kind, a book on mindfulness by Rachael Kable. I feel so much better having made that choice.
It also has occurred to me that maybe I don’t need to have a book I’m in the middle of at every second of my life. But I decided to ignore that thought and enjoy being lost in these two books until my next what to read dilemma arises. Stay tuned!