Tag Archives: read

My Guilt Trips over Books

The guilt… oh, the overwhelming guilt I feel when I place a book on the back burner and don’t get back to it for weeks or months at a time. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, I feel awful.

I think it would be safe to say that I have always been an avid reader. In high school, when a novel was assigned to us for a book report, a presentation or a test, I would usually devour the book cover to cover on the Sunday, to ensure the information remained closely in my subconscious for the coming week.

It wasn’t that I was procrastinating, but with my brain processing so much new material from all of my classes, it was the most efficient way for me to ensure I was prepared to answer questions about the story.

The pace at which I learned to read (and to retain) became a wonderful life skill not only for my personal reading pleasure but also for my career, where I often needed to process great amounts of information to generate reports, recommendations, solutions or combinations of all three.

If I had to express a preference, I like to read at a more casual, relaxed pace, where I can truly savour every word, especially when the author’s masterpiece is a tour-de-force in brilliant writing. Savouring a book on a rainy or snowy Sunday, in my favourite chair, sipping a wonderful cup of tea, with the cat snoring next to me is paradise on earth. Still, there are times when regardless of how quickly or how slowly I may start a book, the words just don’t seem to sink in. Why is that?

Over the years, I became aware of the difference between a “light read” and a “heavy read” and how that affects the appropriate timing for introducing a book in one’s life.

During stressful times at work, heavy reads just would not sink in. In most cases, a light read was all that my brain could handle. Still, there were some abundantly stressful times when light reads were a challenge too, as you could likely see glimmers of “no vacancy” signs in my eyes.

When my headspace was heavily cluttered for one reason or another, a story with too many characters or too many intricate details would lose me easily.
A story that seemed to escape editorial quality control might have also thrown me off.

I recall a book that spent so much time setting up the story that I found myself distracted, constantly wondering to myself if this story was ever going to get going. I had to put it on the back burner with the goal of returning to it when time and patience were in generous supply.

When I put a book aside, I actually feel worse when I pick up a different book and am able to read it cover to cover over a weekend. I hope that there is no jealousy among books.

To this point, I have never parted with a book that I put on hold. I just park them with a strong resolve to return to them when the timing is better.

In those moments, I feel awful. But is my guilt justified?

I realize the effort, the blood, sweat, sometimes tears, and the piece of oneself that an artist instills in every work of art. Out of respect for the authors, I truly wish that I could devour every book in a couple of days. That is likely why my empathy runs as deeply as it does if, for whatever reason, a book just doesn’t click with me right away.

I try to reason with myself that personally, as an artist, I realize that not every piece I write is a home run for everyone, and I am OK with that.

I also accept that readers sometimes need to be in a certain frame of mind to welcome a story into their world. I see it in myself that when I am highly curious and tuned in, no amount of distraction can keep me from a book. But that curiosity has its own ebb and flow, and that is the way life goes.

In recognizing these factors and circumstances, I try not to let the respect and admiration I feel for an artist bubble over into a painful, self-inflicted guilt trip.

I hope that other artists see things the same way and won’t begrudge me if I have to step away from their work of art until the ideal mindset comes along, to truly savour every word and to love the experience along the way. To me, that is the best time to be consuming art and to be left with a wonderfully positive and lasting impression.

The beauty is that in retirement, not only have I been able to enjoy more time for reading, but I have been going back to some of the books that I paused along the way and have been reading them with great enthusiasm. The best part is that I finished them, and some of them, surprisingly quickly.

I think it would be fair to say that as readers, we shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves if a book won’t sink in when our lives are at the height of challenge or adversity. To me, it now seems perfectly natural to put it aside until the brain has the capacity to easily absorb a story and to appreciate it at its fullest value.

Isn’t that the point of a good book?

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Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,
André

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Books or eReaders? It Depends.

I may be a little late to the party, but recently, I have been wanting to join in on the discussion among book lovers about whether they preferred books or eReaders (electronic reading devices and apps).

Since their appearance on the market a little more than a decade ago, eReaders have steadily gained in popularity, thus creating a discussion among avid readers that would have been considered science fiction in the decades prior.

It warms the cockles of my heart to see the passion with which individuals explain perfectly valid reasons for their preferred option. I also find the deep loyalty with which they express their preference to be charming, magical and absolutely convincing as I can relate to every word.

Where both camps meet in the middle is in their articulation of love of the written word and for reading in general, which is a joy in itself.

The reason I am only jumping into the conversation now is because of my recent realization that my own preference has changed a couple of times, depending on other factors.

Back when I was commuting daily by bus, I had loads of time on my hands. When I wasn’t listening to music and watching the scenery go by, reading was something that helped me to pass the time as well as to decompress from a heavy work day.

However, there were limitations to what I could bring with me. A heavy hardcover book was out of the question. With a messenger bag already pretty full with healthy food choices and a few necessities in case of emergency, adding a heavy book could have easily had me walking with a distinct tilt and risking additional visits to the chiropractor. Continue reading

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Which Book to Read Next?

Over the last couple of years, I have been making time to enjoy one of life’s sweet yet simple pleasures: I have reconnected with my love for books.

Where I used to reserve books for bedtime reading, I have since rejigged my schedule to allow time in the morning to slowly sip my coffee, to listen to some relaxing music, to read for a bit and to gently ease into my day.

After decades of going from 0 to 60, hitting the ground running as soon as my feet swung out of bed and hit the floor, this new routine has become a welcome and preferred approach to start the day off right.

It offers me the time to slowly wake up, to breathe and to reconnect with my positive energy. It seems to gently nudge the brainwaves into action rather than a speedy immersion into worrying about what the day ahead holds.

In making reading part of my morning routine, rather than taking six months to finish a book, I have been averaging one book per month, although I have impressed myself by finishing some in a matter of days when I just couldn’t put them down.

In the last couple of years, I have filled my mind, my heart and my soul with fascinating biographies, I have read some classics that I missed, I have explored some books on personal growth and new ways of thinking, and I have devoured books that will help me grow as a writer and as an artist. Continue reading

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Rekindling My Love for Classic Novels

This past summer, I was completely captivated by the PBS television program, “The Great American Read”.

The PBS Web Site describes the show as: “THE GREAT AMERICAN READ was an eight-part series that explored and celebrated the power of reading, told through the prism of America’s 100 best-loved novels (as chosen in a national survey). It investigated how and why writers create their fictional worlds, how we as readers are affected by these stories, and what these 100 different books have to say about our diverse nation and our shared human experience.”

I am certain I am not the only reader who scanned each title on the list (…a few times!) to see how many I have read over the years.

I was most delighted at discovering that two of the titles on the list were part of my high school experience: “1984” by George Orwell (which I absolutely loved, especially since I read it in 1983) and “Rebecca” by Daphne du Maurier.

There were a few others that I had read later in life for the fun of it, like “The Notebook” by Nicholas Sparks and “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger.

And there were many stories for which I hadn’t read the books but I knew well from the cinematic versions, such as “To Kill a Mocking Bird”, “Gone With the Wind”, “The Help”, “The Great Gatsby”, and “The Color Purple”, to name a few.

I really enjoyed the PBS program because in each episode, teachers, authors and celebrities would speak about the books, offering their opinions as to what they enjoyed, what they got out of it and what resonated with them. Continue reading

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