As I have blogged about many times before, books and reading are absolutely fundamental to my life. Recently, however, I feel I have lost my reading mojo. I still read a lot, but more often than not I am re-reading an old favourite, or reading blogs or recipe books.Nothing wrong with any of that, of course, but I am starting to feel a little bit stale.
There are a few barriers to reading new things. The first is time. The reading I do do is in snatched moments – a couple of pages when Anna is watching telly and Sophia is happily occupied with one her toys, another sneaky glance when I’m waiting for the pasta to cook, and then as much as I can manage (normally not much) before I fall asleep at night. It is quite difficult to accommodate anything that needs much concentration or brain power in these tiny windows.
The second is my unruly emotions. Since having Anna I have found that I can’t cope with sad, poignant, violent or traumatic events very well, either in art of life. Since having Sophia, that has worsened. I spend far too much time silently panicking about all the misery and pain in the world, all the illnesses and accidents and senseless violence, and how they could affect my precious girls. In the little time I have for reading I want escapism, not powerfully crafted reminders of the vulnerability and fragility of life.And many books provide this escapism. The problem is, it’s hard to predict. A few years ago I read an utterly charming and heartwarming book about a single mother starting up a knitting shop in New York, and through the classes she taught meeting a wonderful group of friends who enriched her life. It was absolutely delightful until, without much warning, she died of ovarian cancer in the penultimate chapter, leaving her friends bereft and her young daughter heartbroken and motherless. I haven’t quite got over that yet.
The third problem is my addiction. I don’t want to be flippant, but, rather as people who have issues with alcohol or tobacco learn that they can’t be social drinkers or have ‘just one’ fag at a party without sending themselves spirally back into damaging addiction, so I worry a bit about me with books. When I am reading a new book I love I tend to lose myself to the world completely. And I do mean completely. I have missed my stop on trains and buses countless times. I have been late for work. I have sat in a busy public place in floods of tears, utterly oblivious to the consternation of those around me, because I am so absorbed in the world of my book. The thing is, I can’t afford to do that now. I genuinely am a little worried that if I read too much my compulsion will grow and my children will spend too much time in front of the telly in dirty clothes eating cheese sandwiches because I am too absorbed to play or wash or cook.
So, three good reasons for me not to read. But the overwhelming case in favour is that reading is so much a part of who I am that if I don’t read I will be losing myself.
Local libraries set a summer reading challenge for school children – to read and rate six new books over the course of the summer holidays. In other words, six books in six weeks. So it occurred to me that if they can do that, so can I. Only to make it a more sustained effort I am challenging myself to 52 books in 2016. I was very sceptical that I could achieve my Advent blog challenge, but I managed it, so to incentivise myself with this I am also going to blog monthly about what I have been reading. The aim is not that these books are all great literature. I am going to read what I love, and so I expect that chick lit, detective fiction and the odd cookery book will make up a large part of the list.
I am doing pretty well so far. We are half way through January, and I am right on target having read 2.5 new books so far this month. And so far Anna and Sophia remain (reasonably) clean, well-fed and contented. Early in February I will be reporting back on them – watch this space!