The Expanding Reading List Conundrum

It is a truth universally acknowledged that reading lists always grow. I have kept lists of books that I want to read since I was a teenager. Now that I’m a Good Reads devotee, I have my “to-read” list stored online. When I think back on the years of reading goals, one thing becomes clear: I never read some of those books. It might even be accurate to say that I never read most of them.

A reading list to me is not a homework assignment. The OCD part of my personality enjoys making lists, and reading is one of my primary activities. Naturally I enjoy bringing the two together. Still, I have never made a list of books to read and then forced myself to adhere to it. I find that the best way to remain an enthusiastic reader is to pick up whatever book peaks my interest at that moment. I might have an idea of the next few books I want to read, but nothing is set in stone. It’s the titles that sneak into the lineup that often end up being the most enjoyable.

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So if I’m not going to follow it, what’s the point of making a list? First of all, a reading list is aspirational. It gives me an unofficial goal for moments when I feel unmotivated. A reading list is also a memory tool. I don’t know how often customers come into the bookstore looking for a book they heard about on the radio or from a friend, only to realize they don’t remember the title or the author. I usually have a good memory for such things, but I hear about a lot of books in my travels.

Speaking of the bookstore, my job sometimes leads to a kind of reader’s depression. It comes with the realization that there are so many good books in the world, and I will never have time to read everything that I want to. During my early days on Good Reads, when I was still a wee English major, my to-read list consisted mainly of British and American literature that I heard about in class. Occasionally they might even be books assigned in a class that I didn’t have time to finish reading. (Yes, it happened. Sorry, professors.) Now my reading list is more likely to include books that I learn about at work or online.

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The ever-expanding reading list should be hopeful instead of disheartening. I may not have read every book that once interested me, but I read the ones that interested me most. The others aren’t going anywhere. I read to better myself, study the craft of writing, and find enjoyment—not to check items off a list. I just have to trust that I will find the right books at the right time.

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1 Comment

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One response to “The Expanding Reading List Conundrum

  1. LJSCHOCK

    Have we been reading each other’s minds lately? I ask because I have had the same feelings about reading and not having time to read all of the books I would like. I put ones I want to read on my Amazon wish list and keep track of the ones I do read in a notebook. I guess I’m old school like that 😉

    I spend so much time reading for school right now that I have been having trouble doing any enjoyable reading, but, over this last rotation I did set a reading goal. It is working out so far because I’ve had a lot of overnight call in the hospital and I have found that catching up on some easy to read young adult fantasy had been a great way to pass the time. I have also tried reading while on the elliptical but it makes me a little motion sick. It’s about making time for things I enjoy and getting creative so I don’t feel this give sense of sadness when I look at the list of unread books on my kindle.

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