Friday, May 17, 2013

Saying no to checklist reading

 Because it's Gosling, and he's reading Camus
Image from Page Pulp
Early this year, I had an embarrassingly pretentious plan of reading just "good books." I had a mental list of the books that I would be reading, books that probably even lit majors haven't read themselves. I thought, never again will I be caught reading Fifty Shades of Grey (with all its bad, non-arousing sex) or the latest formulaic thriller by Dan Brown or the young adult romance showing horny teenagers holding hands.

And then I realized that I've fallen into the trap of what some people call "checklist reading." So what if I'll never read Infinite Jest or the 7-volume Remembrance of Things Past ? Heck, even the translators can't seem to agree whether it's Remembrance of Things Past or In Search of Lost Time. I know that these are great works of fiction, but I'm not feeling the pressure of reading them within a specified time frame.

Checklist reading reminds me of my literature class back in college, when my instructor handed out the list of readings that we'll go through during that term. Ack! Memories of cramming, drinking too much caffeine to finish reading, and taking way too many notes to share with the class the following day. I had fun though, but it's something that I'm not too keen on experiencing again.

I guess it doesn't matter what kind of books you read, as long as you read, yes? Besides, as bibliophiles, the thing that connects us is our indiscriminate love for books. 

15 comments:

guiltless reader said...

Love this post! There was time that I kept trying to read "good" stuff (i.e. literary and snobby stuff) but I couldn't stick to it. I need some chick lit, I need some lighter reading ... it's all part of my diet of variety. Or else I'd get bored reading and that would be a tragedy.

Monique said...

I concur with your last two statements! ;)

Peter S. said...

Hello, guiltless reader! We all need some fluff every now and then!

Hi, Monique! Amen to that!

Overthinker Palaboy said...

Naalala ko yung lit class ko noon na kinuha ko nung summer. Mahilig ako magbasa pero pressure na matapos lahat. Dun ko sinuka ang pagbabasa. Sabi ko, never again na magbabasa ako para tapusin ang list sa deadline.

angus25 said...

I'm still going to stick with my checklist reading but that doesn't mean I'm only going to read books from that list. I'm actually reading a nonrequired book now. :D

Peter S. said...

Hello, overthinker palaboy! Masaya din yun diba? May halong stress. Hehehehehe.

Hi, angus! Woot woot!

Lynai said...

"I guess it doesn't matter what kind of books you read, as long as you read, yes?" -- I strongly agree. :D

Louize Gonzales said...

I agree!
As the French would say, "The pleasure of eating is from appetizer to dessert." For me, there should always be room for dessert. So in reading, hindi rin dapat puro entree lang ang binabasa natin. ❤

Kaz said...

I've been creating informal lists for myself to keep from falling into either a reading rut or a reading block (as you experienced recently). A couple of online publications I subscribe to have 'literary' sections, and one in particular has a columnist who regularly pops in lists of books - mostly up and coming new literature. What I'm NOT doing is slavishly following all the suggestions and trying to work through all the books on the lists. I'm reading the blurbs and noting covers and treating them much as I would library shelves, picking out the ones that appeal. The reading experience has reminded me of the time my ex and I were in a wine club - membership required a baseline order, minimum being a mixed dozen every three months, delivered to the door. What we ended up with was a carton of red wine that introduced us to wines we may never have thought to try, and/or labels we'd never even heard of - increasing our appreciation of wine across the board. I've had a number of surprising reads. I've read some books from these eclectic lists that I'll keep and read again, others I've passed on to friends, and others that require a trip to that lovely shop I wrote about once - Gertrude and Alice - to do some book exchanging...

I think the lists can become a bit like the blogs, or anything we commit ourselves to, if we're not careful. The sense of obligation kicks in and THEN it becomes a chore...

NOW, all I have to get past is a version of writer's block that has left me with a backlog of some wonderful books about which to write that sit in a row just to the right of my computer and glare at me - I kid you not. SUCH neglect!!!

Peter S. said...

Hi, Kaz! Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on the topic. I really look forward to your comments. They're so candid, and they have a big ring of truth to them.

I do understand the obligation thing that you mentioned, and I must admit that I fell for that sense of obligation a few times before. But never again!

Peter S. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Peter S. said...

Hi, Kaz! Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on the topic. I really look forward to your comments. They're so candid, and they have a big ring of truth to them.

I do understand the obligation thing that you mentioned, and I must admit that I fell for that sense of obligation a few times before. But never again!

Mona said...

Great reminder! I do this "checklist reading" too from time to time. When I've read a whole bunch of books NOT on my checklist, I sometimes feel bad (my weakness is YA historical fiction). But in the moment, I love it and there's nothing wrong with it.

What seems to work better for me is to say, instead of reading specific books, I'm going to aim to read something from certain genres (e.g. this year, it's poetry). This seems to work better because then I can pick and choose WHAT from that genre instead of being tied down to a specific book.

Peter S. said...

Hello, Mona! I love YA historical fiction too! Yes, there's nothing wrong with that!

Nette M said...

Hi sorry just read this now but have to say I so agree with your last two statements. Also best not to comment on what another reader chooses to read i.e. to each his own as long as we all love reading :-)