Sunday, January 23, 2011

Book Selection Anxiety

Okay, this is really silly, but I'm going to share this because I was wondering if anyone else in the book-blogging community has ever experienced it: Book Selection Anxiety.  I will explain if it's not already obvious.

Right now, I'm in the middle of a long, wonderful, fact-packed book: At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson.  It's great, but I can only read so much of it at once.  So, the other day, I was trying to select an alternate book to read.  I've really trying to whittle down my TBR shelf, so it made sense to me to select something from that list.  But I was in agony!

I didn't want anything too long, because two long books at the same time is so intimidating; I didn't want anything British, because I've been reading so many lately (almost half the books on my TBR pile are either about Britain or written by British authors); I didn't want anything brand new, because I felt guilty about reading new books when I have so many I've owned for so long; I didn't want anything non-fiction because I was already reading a non-fiction book.  See how difficult I'm being?

I finally looked at my TBR list and decided on the perfect book:  Collected Novellas by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, which includes Leaf Storm, No One Writes to the Colonel and Chronicle of a Death Foretold. I'd read Chronicle years ago and really liked it, so that would make it an easier read; all three are fairly short; and it's probably the book I've owned longest without actually reading, so it would feel really good to cross that off my list.  And I've just started a new Conversational Spanish class, so it felt particularly timely.  A perfect choice.

However, this dilemma really got me thinking -- why on earth was I making this so difficult??  Reading is supposed to be fun -- there are no reading police to tell me what and when to read or enjoy.  It's not homework!  What in the heck is wrong with me???  It also made me wonder if all my blogging and reading of blogs and to-read lists was contributing to my insanity.  AndI was really wondering if anyone else has ever gone through this.

And by the way, that was three days ago and I still haven't picked up Garcia Marquez.  I also realized that Virago Reading Week starts tomorrow so I should probably start a Virago if I need another book -- I'm leaning toward The Professor's House by Willa Cather.  Alas, Collected Novellas will have to wait after all.

25 comments:

  1. I do get book selection anxiety. The TBR dare is actually helping me keep it in check a little better.

    And yes, you should read The Professor's House this week. Such a great book.

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  2. Sometimes I feel that anxious feeling when I have a vague sense of what I want to read but nothing I pick up fills that bill. Then I start to feel this irrational fear that I will never find the book that will fit the bill. In moments like that I always turn to a comfort read which serves as a transition read until I find THE BOOK that I am searching for. Don't feel silly...I think we all have our little quirky reading moments or habits that make our reading lives just that much more rich:)

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  3. Ha! I know, it's always a risk when you pick a book up, and any investment of my time these days has to be worthwhile. Sometimes choosing the right book is hard, especially when you don't know what you want to read.

    Willa Cather is always a good choice - so I say go with The Professor's House. I look forward to you joining in with Virago Reading Week!

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  4. I get it! I went through this same exact thing last night. I decided I would sleep on it and woke up this morning thinking what is wrong with me? It's a book and a reading selection should not be this stressful!

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  5. I suffer from exactly the same thing! Sometimes, if nothing is jumping out at me, I can spend hours staring at the TBR pile.

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  6. I know the feeling, but for me it's usually because nothing seems to fit my mood. I've been reading some heavy books lately and am craving something light, but none of the ones I have out seem to fit the bill. So I'm flipping through magazines!

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  7. Thomas -- I chose The Professor's House because you keep mentioning it on your blog. I also have Song of the Lark -- I want to read all of Cather's books.

    Stacy -- I am so glad it's not just me. And I think rereads would be great but then I'd feel guilty about not reading something new when I have so many unread books on the TBR pile. It's a vicious circle.

    Booksnob -- The Professor's House it shall be. I might read some Wharton this week too.

    Brenna -- I'm so glad that other people understand! Sleeping on it is a fine idea.

    Falaise -- sometimes I take three or four things and just start skimming. Something will usually stick. But it's nice to know I'm not the only one suffering from such insanity.

    Motheretc -- I agree, I have to alternate the heavy with the light reads, long books with short, etc. I wanted something fiction or with an actual narrative to contrast with the fact-filled book. Bryson is so great but I have to read it in bits and pieces.

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  8. Oh yes, I suffer from this. It is especially problematic when it is my time to choose a book for club.

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  9. I know the feeling, but I really go with what feels right for a mood versus what I think I "should" be reading. I'm about to start the Bryson book and it's good to know that it's a "bit at a time" book, as I like to have those around for a chapter respite from a heavier read.

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  10. I used to have that problem about mid-way through my blogging, but eventually decided to say screw it and just read what I wanted....

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  11. I get it, but not because of blogging. It's just that there are so many amazing books to be read, and so little time in which to read them. When I am ready to start a new book, I sometimes just stare desperately at my wall o' books and feel completely incapable of making a decision.

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  12. Care -- That would be tough! Luckily I don't have to choose for book club -- I just give suggestions then in one group we vote and in the other the group leader chooses, so the pressure's off me.

    JaneGS -- the Bryson book is great. It's not a hard read but it's jammed with so many facts I need to take a break sometime. A chapter at a time would be perfect.

    Amanda -- that's how I feel about book groups sometimes, or my online groups. I do sometimes say screw it and read whatever the hell I want, and wonder why I'm putting so much pressure on myself. This is why I still haven't read hardly any Russians or Faulkner etc. For book groups I try to give the book at least 100 pages, but I don't always succeed.

    Jenny -- I love your phrase "wall o'books." That's EXACTLY what I have. All unread! And it's starting to creep over onto another wall. . . like a horror movie!

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  13. I thought that I was the only one that over-thought which book would be the best choice for me to read at any certain time. I really enjoyed this blog reminding me that reading is supposed to be something enjoyable and it shouldn't be torturous for me to choose a book that I would enjoy. I also have "a bucket list of books" that I would like to read and there never seems to be enough time. So maybe if I spent more time reading and less time choosing the books I would actually make a dent in my "bucket list."

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  14. Breeana -- I also spend more time thinking and reading about books, and making lists, than I actually do reading. Which is not so productive. At least I'm not the only one!

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  15. I had this problem all the time when I was doing challenges and what not. but I've always been a multiple book reader, so that was a matter of trying to get through all the books I had in progress. It's stressful.

    I am trying to be much more laid back nowadays. Just read what I feel like reading...

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  16. I just ordered that Bill Bryson book. The reviews sounded like it would be something I'd love. I just angsted this afternoon about what to read next. I've committed to reading each month one of my TBR books, one spiritual, one creative, one non-fiction, and one biography. I've finished the spiritual and TBR. The creativity book will take more than a month to read since there are exercises to do every day. I've just begun the bio of John Ruskin and am half way through the non-fiction. Dilemma: Do I start reading a library book or another TBR? I need a fiction book mixed in with all that non-fiction. I just need to get away from my life a little each day, and a novel is the perfect way to do that. I have a library book I need to read called Mrs. Mallory: Death of a Dean by Hazel Holt. I'd better read that before it gets overdue.

    See, you're not the only one that's crazy!

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  17. I have this all the time! That's why I've been letting fate decide for me. I numbered all the books on my TBR shelf and use random. org to choose a book for me. Then, I just read it. Kind of a weird way to choose, but I am too indecisive otherwise! (I got this idea from Old English Rose Reads. She calls it the TBR Lucky Dip.)

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  18. I'm with you on giving a book 100 pages. If I'm not hooked by then, I let it go. I'm also with you on reading what I want - like you said, we're not in school any more!

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  19. Me too! I feel the same way about selecting a new book to read - its crazy! I don't know why it even happens, but it does. Its rather annoying, isn't it? I'm trying to just randomly pick books to read - like whatever catches my eye. I'm hoping this method works in taking out the stress of picking books to read. Good luck! By the by, love Bryson - such a great writer!

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  20. Rebecca -- I've tried to cut back on my challenges this year (except for the TBR Dare) and my readalongs and online book club participation. I'm trying to stick to the books on my TBR shelf -- if I don't own the book, I'm not reading it until later.

    Debbie -- I do feel better knowing I'm not the only one who's going through this. The Bryson book is great, I'm really enjoying it.

    Anboleyn -- sometimes I let my kids pick for me. I like your numbering idea too.

    Peggy -- I think I was taking all the fun out if it with the must-reads and ought-to reads. Even for book clubs, if it doesn't grab me within 100 pages, I'm done. There's too much else out there!

    Nadia -- I try to be random but it seems like I always have some sort of reading agenda. It's tough to be spontaneous. And I'm loving the Bryson book. I hope to post my review this week.

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  21. Sometimes I pick one up, start reading, and decide that's not really what I'm in the mood for. So I put a bookmark in and start another. Occasionally--like today--this results in me having bookmarks in seven different books. That's too many even for someone who usually reads two or three at a time, like me.

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  22. Jeanne -- I do that too. And I usually just end up forgetting about some of them and sticking with the most interesting, or whatever I'm in the mood for at the time. I don't really abandon them completely unless I really commit to reading it then realize I don't like it.

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  23. Hah! I have the exact same issues going on right now. Thoroughly enjoying Simon Winchester's Atlantic but it's hefty. I've had to make multiple book choices to complement it and it's hard! Right now I'm reading Three Men in a Boat and I'll admit that I probably won't pick up Atlantic again until I'm done.

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  24. Kristen -- Three Men in a Boat is hilarious! I think it's probably a perfect complement to Atlantic, since they're both about sailing. Sort of. I can't imagine J. and his friends on a sea-going vessel.

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  25. I get that feeling too, sometimes. No worries!

    I will be watching for your review of the Bryson book (I love him!) and will post the link on my non-fiction blog when you put it up. Hope you enjoy the Cather book!

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