When you see somebody lounging on their couch with a book in hand, it looks like the most comfortable thing imaginable. The sun is shining through half-closed drapes, maybe they have a nice antique lamp on their side table. Oh! And a blanket because it’s cold outside. Cozy, comfortable, all the good things.
The thing is, a lot of readers are anxious as hell. They’re not thinking about what they’re reading, but how much they’re reading or what their friends think about what they’re reading or if they’re really getting it. There are a million things about the act of reading that get readers worked up. Here are some of the things that give me reader’s guilt.
1. I only read like fifteen pages a day
I write on my commute to work, I write at work, and then I read what I can on the train home. And when I’m home, my brain can’t process language anymore. But I can only read so much on the commute home. It’s a good forty-five minutes, but there are people leaning over me or talking on the phone or smelling of mysterious odors. Plus, I’m just a slow (or at least average) reader. I think it takes me like two minutes to read the average book page. That’s pretty slow.
But it’s my pace. I might feel pressure to finish a book a week because that’s what some of my superhuman friends claim to do, but I can’t will myself into speedreading. Still, reading something is better than nothing.
2. I read so many comic books
Comic books may gradually be getting a bit more respect in literary circles, but there’s still some guilt putting Silver Surfer: Volume Three on my Goodreads account. I get it. It presumably requires less brainpower to read comics than it does to read good old-fashioned prose. Plus, comics are for kids. Most are, anyway. But I like them. And, again, something is better than nothing.
3. I constantly check when the chapter ends
Blessed be the authors who write short chapters. There’s nothing more soul-crushing than sitting down to begin the next chapter and you realize, forty minutes into it, you don’t have ten pages left, or twenty or thirty, but thirty-six pages left. Guess I’ll finish that chapter tomorrow. Or sometime next week. Or never.
4. I like books with a lot of action
The feeling I sometimes get with psychological realist books is that they’re kind of action-a-chapter. This chapter, you might have one dramatic thing happen. That’s it. I prefer my books to have characters who are constantly doing things. Sure, give me their thoughts and feelings, but these are stories we’re talking about. I don’t want to hear your vacation stories if you’re just going to tell me what you were thinking about in Venice. I want to hear about the time you stole a gondola!
5. I haven’t read like half the books on my shelf
Sometimes I buy books that slowly get pushed down my reading list. It’s already been established that I’m a slow reader, so by the time I’m halfway through my current read, I’ve probably changed what the next book on my reading list is. I’ve had Treasure Island on my to-read list forever. I’ll probably never read it.
6. I’ve returned so many library books half-finished
Just, I mean. I don’t know. Sorry?
Reader’s guilt is definitely a thing, but maybe it shouldn’t be. Reading’s not a competition. It should be fun. Competing is only fun for certain psychopaths. Not for this psychopath. Relaxation is fun. Imagination and adventures are fun. Learning new things is fun (right, kids!?) You should never feel like you need to finish X amount of books this year. That quota is anti-fun. It’s anti-reading, really. So, next time you bring up the topic of reading with your friends, talk about the book you’re reading. Don’t talk about how many books you’ve read.
Feature Photo By Ethan Sykes Via Unsplash