Since making myself a fun little “Assigned Reading” list back in September for the school year, I have noticed a distinct pattern—without fail, I have finished my “personal development” (usually self-help or religious nonfiction book) first, read the YA pick within a few days of starting it, and then I’ve left the so-called “Hard Hitter” (aka, “Classic”) book until the very (very!) end, sometimes not even *quite* finishing it on deadline.
Welcome to how I operated in college.
This week, my self-imposed Spring Term ends on Saturday. Predictably, I’ve long since finished the other two books I had assigned to myself and left the classic–Lord of the Flies–until last.
Since I didn’t quite finish Sense and Sensibility on time last term (though I DID finish it within a day or two), I decided I was going to outsmart myself this time around in order to ENSURE that I finished all three books by the deadline.
In other words—I took drastic measures, people:
I finished every single other book I was in the middle of (oh, probably about six or seven total), and THEN I WOULDN’T LET MYSELF START ANY OTHER BOOK.
You guys, it’s been driving me CRAZY.
Ever since I was young, I’ve been a multiple-books-at-a-time reader; I discovered long ago that I often read by my mood, and being in the middle of several books at once meant that I almost always had at least one title lying around that I’d want to read at any given moment. It also meant that I finished books at a faster rate (and is one of the big secrets to how I managed to finish 65 books last year and how I’ve been averaging 7 books a month so far this year).
For most of my life, I started books mostly at random, according to the whimsy of the mood (or the intrigue of the cover). However, a year or two ago, I struck on a formula that I’ve roughly tried to follow ever since, and that’s this—
At any given time, I’m reading an adult fiction, a YA fiction, a nonfiction that reads more like an informational text (such as a self-help or business/productivity book), and a memoir.
Now, since I burn through the YA titles so quickly, it’s not unusual for that one genre to only pop in and out of the rotation a time or two a month (because otherwise I would probably just be finishing a lot of YA picks and not a ton else). Also, since my adult fiction pick is often a more dense/slower-paced classic, I will often start a second adult fiction that’s more contemporary.
So my formula isn’t an exact science, really.
This last month, I was riding a particularly high wave of reading motivation. Not only did I actually seem to have a plethora of books I was truly eager to read (always the first step in wanting to read more!), but I also was riding the high of feeling like I had so much extra time because I’ve recently gone to a watch-t.v.-only-once-a-week thing, which frees up a couple hours every night for books. At one point in this month, in fact, I was easily averaging more than the two-books-a-week thing I’d been roughly shooting for and finishing a book every 2 or 3 days.
It was amazing.
Then I realized that if I wanted to keep up on my assigned reading, I really should be reading Lord of the Flies already. So I started it semi-early in the month, rationalizing that since I’d started so early (and since it’s not that long of a read), I should be able to knock it out without too much effort by just reading about 10-15 pages a day from it.
Yeah, that lasted about 3 days.
There were just so many other books that screamed louder for my attention, and I was all too happy to oblige them, as my attention was wanting to go that way anyway.
But now, here we are, just a couple days away from my deadline, and I’m *still* only halfway through the dang book.
And, rather than using all that time I was using before to just read Lord of the Flies and knock it out of the way already, I’ve been largely spending that time CLEANING.
I honestly can’t even tell you the last time I was only reading one book at a time, and now I can see why I’ve avoided it for so long—
No matter what mood I’m in, I only have one option—a classic that can only have a depressing ending, and one in which the writing style often leaves a slight question as to who is talking at any given time (which has driven me NUTS–just follow the standard dialogue tag formula, wontcha?!).
So now sometimes, when I’ve plopped my bum down and been ready to burn through pages like a reading robot machine, I’ve noticed that my mind starts drifting longingly–much like it does soon before I’m about to go out to a restaurant or to a potluck and starts dreaming up what I’m going to eat next–to what titles I’m going to start first when this assignment is completed…
A new memoir? One of the new books I got for Christmas? Deep Work, which I bought for Matt for Valentine’s Day (and which I conveniently wanted to read myself, too)?
I can do this.
I can read just one book at a time.