Unshelved by Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum
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Saturday, April 07, 2018

Something to contemplate--or, confessions of a (temporarily, I hope) non-reader

When I was a kid, books were my friends. I was an only child.  I didn't feel particularly loved, was starved for attention, and as the youngest in my class didn't make friends easily, especially given that as a military brat, we moved so much.  I love board games, for example, but as a child played my left hand against my right hand because I really had no one to play with, something that now saddens me when I think about it, and it may come as no surprise that in addition to anxiety issues, I probably spent the majority of my childhood, especially my adolescence, clinically depressed.  I excelled at school, because I read so much, and because it was the only way I really felt like anyone cared enough to give me attention.  Over time, I retreated into a fantasy world whose walls were built in books.   Reading transported me to different places, I emphasised strongly with the characters, and as I grew older I surrounded myself with books and ran stories through my head constantly.  I became a librarian partly because of my love of books.  But it took a darker turn.  I hoard books physically.  At the old place, I had something like seventeen bookshelves in a one-bedroom apartment.  I had more books at home than the library I worked in.  I got a Kindle, and collected books on it, hoarding there, too.  For a while I read with gusto, but my 'to be read' pile just kept getting larger, and I began to fall behind.

For a few years now, I've really struggled with reading for enjoyment, and I don't read much at all anymore, which I find incredibly frustrating, as I identify so strongly with being a reader and a librarian, and really, what does it mean when you surround yourself with books, both in professional and personal life, yet never open them? I do better with non-fiction rather than fiction, but even then, I skim a lot and don't read cover to cover.  I even check out books from the library, sometimes for months at a time, and don't read them.  I want to.  I think they sound interesting.  It's hoarding at its finest.  At first, I said, oh, I don't have the time.  That's the problem.  Or, I have trouble deciding what to read next.  That's not it.  My best friend finally explained it to me.

I started coming out of my shell and really expanding outside the walls of my fantasy land in my late-twenties and early-thirties.  I got divorced, got a job I loved with great co-workers, and developed lasting and short-lived friendships as well.  I interact with people here in the real world on a daily basis--and in fact crave it, now, as quiet days at home are hard to deal with, for this historically introverted person.  'Lisa Land' as we call it, home of unicorns and pixie dust and where I can be the princess of my own world, is no more, for the most part.  As such, the walls came down, and I learned to make friends with real people, not just things.  In that sense, I've outgrown books, or rather, what they always represented to me.  I have a similar relationship with food.  Just as food is really there for sustenance, not emotional support, books are there for entertainment and information.  I really need to learn to approach them as they were intended rather than as a treasured friend.  I think that is the only way I will enjoy reading again.  Maybe if I can do that with books (and food), enjoying them for what they are, not the baggage I created for them, then I will love reading.

So, the first step is obviously to consider this and try to approach books in a different way.  I think it best if I sit down and read some every day, even if it's for a short time.  I'm going to start with the books I brought with me (there aren't many, but I chose them carefully), which are in my room.  I will read one fiction and one non-fiction book a day for 20 minutes each.  I will include one library book for 20 minutes as well, so I stop hanging onto them too long.  That's an hour of reading a day and will vary things nicely and take care of various books at a time.  I could just do an hour of reading on one book a day, but I think this will help, and I can always increase the time per section or revise it later.  It's not set in stone.  But I want to do at least an hour each day.  After I finish the physical books here, I can move onto my Kindle (everything else is in storage).  I'm hoping by taking action, by putting it into practice, I can learn to enjoy books for themselves, learn some things, and get back into the habit of reading.

I've done everything else I need to do today except the game notes and look up some financial information.  It's 5:20 pm now.  If I start reading at 5:30, I can read before dinner, eat at 6:30 and feed the animals, and start the notes by 7 or 7:30.  Several books here are language books.  If I add some time for studying I can do that, too, but if I start today, it should be after the notes are finished.  I've found that my thinking is getting fuzzier, lazier.  I think reading and studying will help.

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