In January, when I stopped blogging, I decided to focus on reading. I gave myself a challenge that was two-fold.
- I would read at least 22 books this year. 22 because I always pick 22, and because it was doable. As much as I like to say I'm an avid reader, I'm also a moody reader; sometimes I just don't feel like reading. I created a profile on Goodreads to document my progress because I knew I needed to track myself, and I'm a sucker for any kind of data.
- I could only read the books I currently own. In the spirit of minimalism, which is a story for another day, I declared I would not buy another book until every book on my shelves had been cracked open. This is the hardest part. I'm not a collector of anything, except tattoos and words, but my shelves were filled with books I had forgotten why I brought home in the first place. I started with 51 books lined up, waiting.
Six months in, I'm happy to report I've read 15 books and I have not spent a single penny on a new one. Two things I've allowed myself - since some of the books on my shelves are no longer relevant to my desired type of reading and I make my own rules - is, one, to give myself the freedom to put a book down if it doesn't capture me. I've started and abandoned three books: World War Z, When I Was Gone, and 1984. The latter really disappointed me, I wanted to love it but I just didn't. I got bored, which, I know, is a travesty. But I needed this to be an honest experience above all else. I also packed a bag of books that I just didn't even want to bother opening and sold them.
The second thing I allowed was borrowed books. There are currently 28 books on my windowsill that I still haven't read but when I finish a book and thumb each title, I'm conflicted with which to pick up. I've read so many great books lately that I'm scared of choosing a dud. That speaks directly to my lack of taste and variety, I know. I have a friend at work who randomly leaves books on my desk, and she has a natural instinct to just know exactly what I'm looking for. I stood in front of her bookshelves a week ago and felt a desperate ache to borrow every single one. She's offered to be my personal librarian and I feel like a student with the kind of teacher who really sees the depths of who you are.
I've been doing it all wrong.
Wrong isn't the right word, but it's the feeling I'm left with. I've literally spent the past seven years reading only books pertaining to spirituality and while that was an unavoidable and required part of my journey, man, have I missed out on so much; mainly, the simple joy of reading a fantastic story without feeling wretched and broken, especially when I already believe that when it comes to faith and spirituality, and God, I'm never going to know. I got a bit carried away, for good reason, I guess. But now the mystery of it all can just be that, a mystery.
When I was 16, I fell in love with Holden Caulfield, unsurprisingly. I mean, who didn't? Somewhere along the way though, I stopped telling people that my favorite book of all time was The Catcher in The Rye because it felt like such a cliché. But cliché or not, it's true. I didn't know there were other writers like J.D. Salinger; writers who, I believe, know how to create a character you love but also really hate, someone honest to a fault and despicable in thought and action, but equally relatable. This challenge - and my personal librarian - has introduced me to Charles Bukowski, Albert Camus, and Kurt Vonnegut. I'm finally going to read Jack Kerouac and Sylvia Plath, authors who seemed only to live on the lips of intellectuals, which I am not. Maybe it's just that I get them now. I suppose I'm ripe this season; I'm learning to read again.
Initially, this challenge was just a box on a list that needed to be checked, a lingering chore of clearing the apartment of things I don't need or use regularly, but it has morphed into a discovery of my favorite authors and my favorite writing style, the style I aspire to write myself - and I am writing it, for myself.