Every now and again, I get asked if I’d like to join a bookclub. Every time, I’m surprised by how viscerally I object to the idea. It’s nice to discuss books with people and I often read books that I’ve seen reviewed, so what’s the problem?
I’ve been thinking about this. I’m really resistant to anything that imposes a structure on my reading. I don’t record what I’ve read, which occasionally leads to me reading a book twice and wondering why it seems so familiar (generally I can only remember covers and not titles. Yes, I’m the person who comes into the library looking for ‘that red book, you know the one’). Sometimes I write about books, blog about them or mention them on facebook. But I really hate the idea of feeling compelled to do that.
I do sometimes go through phases of subject matter. Recently it’s been World War 2 Germany/Poland with The Book Thief -> Maus -> Alone in Berlin -> Bloodlands (Bloodlands definitely stopped me in my tracks for a while. Very important but a tough read.) But I don’t want to have any conscious framework for my reading. I still want to wander around and just pick up stuff that looks interesting.
I’ve been doing rather a lot of that recently. My library habit may be taking over. Here’s our library-book shelf:
Not quite all mine, but for someone who normally takes out 3-4 books at a time, having 11 books from 2 libraries is really pushing things a bit (edited: I just found 2 more! it’s actually 13.)
Although I read a lot of non-fiction, it’s extremely rare that I’m actually reading only for education. Just about every time I open a book, it’s because I expect to get some enjoyment from it. (Bloodlands isn’t exactly fun, but the experience of finding out about something I knew nothing about is extremely enjoyable). I don’t want reading to have any sense of duty about it.
So I think it’s just about books being a private treat. I don’t want to account to anyone when I pick up a piece of cake, so why should it be any different with a book? I don’t want to read anything different because I think somebody thinks I ‘should’ read it. Or because it ‘makes sense’ with other stuff I’m reading.
I guess you can still try to persuade me if you want to try… Goodreads does look like it could be seductive. But I think at heart I’m still a kid with a torch under the covers. Isn’t it amazing that there are all these brilliant books in the world? What a lot of fun is lined up on that shelf. And I don’t have to be accountable to anyone!