For the past few years, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to get myself to read the books that I want to read.
I never have a problem with reading fiction. Reading is my favorite hobby and I’ve always loved it. I love getting lost in a good novel. I constantly have a list of novels To Be Read, that I update on Goodreads when I get recommendations. (Just finished Darling Rose Gold – so good – and currently loving The Holdout.)
Nonfiction has never been my thing. Yes, I’ve read and loved books by Brene Brown and Elizabeth Gilbert and Glennon Doyle – but they were the exceptions, not the rules. For me to read nonfiction, it has to be incredibly well-written and entertaining. It has to be significantly relevant to me at the exact moment I am reading it, like a writing book I read during a creative spree or a parenting book I reach for when facing a challenge like tantrums or sleep. Or it has to be focused on self-help, introspection, or personal growth – like The Gifts Of Imperfection, which is my favorite of Brene Brown’s books.
There are several books that I want to have read but haven’t been able to make myself actually read. I’ve written about this previously in a post called Slow Jams Syllabus. In that post, I wrote down a list of all the books I was struggling to read. I called them “slow jams” because I could not manage to read any of them cover to cover. When I start a good novel, I usually speed through it in a few days. With these books about writing, parenting, mindfulness – I couldn’t do that. Which then made them trickier to read at all. I get a little buzz of accomplishment when I finish a book; I love clicking “I’ve finished this book!” on my Goodreads app and seeing the book move from my Want To Read list to my Read list. With a slow jam, it takes me longer to finish it, and then I often lose my momentum and abandon the book for yet another enjoyable novel.
Usually, the reason I want to read these “slow jam” books is educational; I want to learn more about a topic or do some work in a specific area. My last Slow Jams Syllabus included books on writing, meditation/mindfulness/spirituality, and parenting – plus a few wild cards. The last time I wrote about this, I created my syllabus and I set myself a deadline: Read these books by January 2020. There were 12 books on the list and 10 on the “wait list” I created. It’s way past January 2020, and I’ve read five. And that is okay.
This month, I went through those 22 titles and I sorted them into these categories.
Finished them – yay! No Drama Discipline; No Bad Kids; Meditation Now Or Never. Happiness Is An Inside Job; and Buddhism Is Not What You Think.
Would still love to finish these books someday: Story Craft; The Portable MFA in Creative Writing; Writing To Change The World; Bestseller; The Soul Of Discipline; The Untethered Soul; Parenting From the Inside Out; and Writing Mysteries
Going to keep them on my shelf as a reference – no longer stressing about reading them cover to cover: Full Catastrophe Living; Traveling Mercies; The Happiest Kids In The World; and Wherever You Go There You Are.
No longer care if I ever finish them: Start Here Now; MBSR Every Day; Designing Your Life;The White Album; and Bark.
It felt satisfying to categorize these books and to accept that if I haven’t read them between April 2018 and now, then I may not ever read them in their entirety.
One of the reasons I wanted to do this is that lately, there are entire new categories of nonfiction books that I want to encourage myself to read. The same categories (writing, parenting, mindfulness) are still somewhat present, but the books I currently want to read most are focused on transracial adoption; adoption; race; and current social issues and politics. Stay tuned for my new syllabus and an update on how I’m doing with tackling the required reading so far.