A hair shirt and more reflection

by doradueck

I’m thinking a lot about the act of reading these days. Thinking that it depends on the stage one’s in.

From childhood’s diving into whatever’s available, hour after hour of sheer delight, the world opening to me…  through the required reading of high school and post-secondary education, with extracurricular books riding waves of deep longing and the quest to figure life out…  through the busy middle years of children and work, when books seemed especially memorable and piercing, perhaps because time for them was rarer…  through the ravenous reading in an emptying nest, as if to finally catch up with the Great Unread, when I began a book log to keep track and push myself…

And now I’m sensing a new stage in the air. I’ve grasped the fact that I won’t catch up; I really know it, I mean, and it’s okay. The questions I’m asking are: what do I want from my reading now? and what does this mean for my reading habits?

I think what I want takes me back to what reading gave me especially in childhood: pleasure, discovery, and the inherent safety of story itself. With one important difference: not just anything will do.

As far as habits are concerned:  1—I’m continuing my book log, but in addition to basic information about the book, I’m writing more reflectively about what I’ve just read.

2—I’m no longer numbering the books in my log. I realize this is a bit of a hair shirt I’m wearing here, because of course I can go back and count at year’s end. But it reminds me it’s no longer about how many books I get through, and though I felt a pang the first while at not setting the numbers down—yes, strange as it sounds, I did—the un-numbering has been curiously effective in releasing new priorities. Don’t get me wrong: I think setting reading goals is a terrific idea at times. But for now I’m enjoying the exploration of something different. The result so far has been an up-surge of joy in the journey,  akin to the idea of serendipity expressed in my previous post.

An old photo I recently found in my mother's papers of my grandfather Harder reading

An old photo I recently found in my mother’s papers of my grandfather Harder reading