Last week I posted a list of the books I read in 2013. Doesn’t it look wonderful on my website, next to the one I did in 2012? But I think that might be the problem…
Here are 3 really bad reasons for reading 50 books in one year:
– It’s an achievement that might be seen by others as impressive or admirable
– It looks nice on my website, gives it shape and continuity
– It makes me look like I’m actually doing something worthwhile with my time
3 ways to steal the enjoyment of reading and replace it with some anxiety-driven goal. A vanity project to help me approve of myself a bit more perhaps? My little exam result, my little qualification – aren’t I doing well! See – I’m not just slacking.
I caught myself over the course of the year counting how many books I had read so far, and seeing whether I was “on target” – maybe I need to speed up? Only 40 pages left in this one!
I found myself less and less able to quietly enjoy the books, and allow the messages and feelings to ooze slowly and imperceptibly into me. Several times I felt bad for not having read my book much that week. When something feels burdensome rather than liberating then it’s a flashing sign to stop and see if something beautiful is being made ugly.
Last year was great. I thought ‘Hey – I’ve read loads of cool books this year, why don’t I make some notes on them?’ Then I found to my surprise that I had read 50. As I remember it, the idea for a pre-Christmas book list was a spontaneous thing, partly due to a curiosity about what is involved in Amazon Associates (two people bought something and I made 14p).
But after seeing how nice my “2012 Book List” looked, it seems I decided to steal the magic out of it and aim to do another one for 2013 for those 3 bad reasons. I employed excellent methods for evaporating magic: measure it, monitor it and have a clever reason for doing it.
This book experience was at times a good exercise in how to ignore the valuable insights I thought I had been lucky enough to stumble across.
It’s not like I need a goal to motivate me to read lots of books. I love reading books, I’ll do it whatever happens. And what is the point in reading 50 books anyway? There are always more books to be read (maybe I could read 55??). The goal itself is utterly meaningless, as if the treasure lies in the act of reading, that a book will work magic for me if I simply gobble it up, another notch on the bookshelf. It spoils all the meaningful stuff that happens when I read something in small parts, like a sacred text, to be treated carefully and with the greatest respect.
There seems to be this underlying urge to look a bit clever. A common disease suffered by many people, especially those with websites. Or those who passed through formal education. Occasionally I see the cost of this.
It’s interesting to see it happen under my nose, but I won’t be too hard on myself about it. In fact, I’m already looking forward in 2014 to reading again for the sake of reading. Maybe after I’ve done that, I might feel like making a nice list.