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Monday, December 23, 2019

How I Have Come to Terms With All the Books I Will Never Read

As the year is coming to an end, I am always troubled by the number of library workers I see getting physically upset about all the books they didn't get to read over the lat year and also having extra anxiety about all the books they will never read.

I wrote piece on handling TBR anxiety back in 2017, and I know it has helped a lot of you, but I have something to add to it that I know has helped me. I hope by passing it on, it can help you too.

First, the key point to that 2017 post is that you need to come to terms with the fact that you will never read all the books. But coming to terms is a process, I have learned. It begins by owning the statement, not just saying it. YOU WILL NEVER READ ALL THE BOOKS! There is no wiggle room here. No but, I will try. You cannot and will not. Please stop trying.

Then step two is to NOT set a number of books reading goal for yourself at the start of a year. In my opinion, this is one of the least healthy things you can do to yourself mentally as a library worker. Also, contrary to what GoodReads wants you to think you do NOT have to set a goal on order for them to keep track of how many you are reading. I never do. It still keeps track of how many books you read, but you have to dig to find the data. It does not greet you every time you log in or is always on your dashboard.

Not setting a number of books reading goal for 2 years now has given me space to think about my reading a little differently; to think outside of the number of titles box. Specifically in 2019, this space allowed me to come to an overall life motto, one that I have extended into my reading life too, and extending it is key because my job-- books-- also happens to be my biggest hobby, well reading them is at least. When your job and your personal joys overlap, you need to make space for the joy to still be there or you will lose it first from your hobby, bit then second, and more slowly [as I was seeing firsthand] from other aspects of your life too.

My children are getting older and the first one will be leaving the house in the Fall of 2020. I want to make time to do things with my family and be present for them. I have a lot of books to read for my job, and I work very hard to read those during my working hours, but I also need to read books for fun in order to live my best life and be the best version of me for my loved ones.

A few months ago I was on the phone with a colleague and I told him what I am about to tell you when he was bemoaning all the books he was never going to get to finish and how upset that made him.

I said:
I have decided that living by best life does NOT include reading all the books. I have come to terms with the fact that I WILL miss out on plenty of good books, some that I even probably could make time to read. but instead,  if I read about them, maybe just check them out of the library for a day or two and look them over, or just let them pass by me personally but make an effort to suggest them to someone else to enjoy, that is enough.
This new motto also leaves room for me to embrace and enjoy the books I do read for fun because I now know that they are the special few that I WILL read. I not only enjoy reading them more, I am also more willing to stop a book that isn't working for me with out feeling guilt.

However, when I expressed this new motto to my colleague, he said that he found that even more depressing. Like I was giving up. We talked some more and I get it, for him, it might be. In his head space, he enjoys the books more if he reads them.

For me, though, this is not giving up. Over the last year I feel like I have actually embraced more books, more stories, and more opinions about them by others than I ever have before. And, I have also noticed that I am more present for, less anxious about, and more fully embracing all other aspects of my life more.

In work, I have been more easily able to prioritize what matters, make space to say no when necessary without feeling badly about it, and do a better job at the things I choose to work on. And in my personal life I am definitely enjoying everything more fully. I am willing to let other things I thought I had to do right away slide a bit too. Nothing important, but I see small improvements like not stressing about always having every dish washed and put away at all times. I have embraced the idea that time with family and friends is the most important part of my life and as a result, somehow, I am also finding more time and energy to do all the have to home and business things as well. It is about increasing overall satisfaction with my life and my choices and it began with decisions about my reading.

Now, I realize this is my personal story and it may not work for all of you, but I feel like sharing it may help you to rethink your life as a professional reader and a hobby reader too. I hope my experience will offer you a framework to think about your life and where work and pleasure overlap, allowing you to make the space you need to do your job and enjoy your life fully, including the books you read.

Scheduling note: I will have a final catch up of reviews on the 26th and then my Best Books I Read This Year here on this blog on the 27th, and my Best Horror of the Decade For Libraries on the horror blog that same day. After that, I am on vacation until 1/6.

But, after the new year, I will begin my annual series of posts where I asses my reading resolutions and goals from 2019 before setting out goals for 2020. So for those of you who want homework while I am away, before you start setting 2020 goals, please look back at what your goals were for 2019 and not only asses how you did, but if the goals themselves were healthy, attainable, and helpful. Because as I said above, I do not think setting a goal of the number of books you read in a year is healthy or helpful in anyway.

See you back here on the 26th.

1 comment:

Kelly Moore said...

Such a great post. I agree with so much of what you said, and will be thinking about it for a while, so thanks! (KellyAnnLibrarian)