Often, readers are saddled with the impression that they should finish a book they're reading before moving onto the next one, but what happens when what you read really depends upon how you feel? What about the person who reads to feel entertained, to learn something, to feel comfort and nostalgia, to relax and destress, to get amped up about life, to gain inspiration for something their writing, to connect with and inspire others? All of these emotional categories warrant varying genres, and one book very rarely will fulfill them all.
The literary world would not be the same without the wide assortment of reader archetypes: the chronological reader, the anti-reader, and most importantly the multi-tasker. The multi-tasker sounds exactly like what they are, they juggle books of different sizes and genres and commit to multiple books at once. And then there’s me — the monogamous reader. The monogamous reader is a rare, but important breed of reader that can only commit to one single book at a time, from beginning to end.
There are many struggles that come with being a reader, but none are as torturous as those of the monogamous readers. Everything from bookclubs to TBR piles to new book releases becomes a struggle when you’re in a committed relationship with one book till the very end.
Beginning with one of the most daunting problems the monogamous readers face, the never-ending TBR pile is one of the most infuriating aspects of being committed to one book. I am constantly scrolling through Goodreads or the New York Times bestsellers list and adding at least three books per browsing session. Ever since joining Goodreads back in 2012 to keep track of my ever-growing TBR list, I’ve only managed to get through 280 books out of my “shelved” 523 books.
Books that have become “overnight” bestsellers, a la Gone Girl and Girl on the Train, are always lost on monogamous readers, at least until we finish our latest book. By the time we’ve finished our current book, the hype surrounding the latest bestseller may have come and gone. No matter how many people tell me how fantastic so-and-so book is, I just can’t abandon the book I’m currently working on.
I missed out on George Saunder’s Lincoln in the Bardo and John Green’s Turtles All The Way Down because I was in the middle of Nathan Hill’s The Nix and Jeffrey Eugenides’s The Marriage Plot, respectively. Both received huge hype at the bookstore I was working at, but I liked that by the time I got to them, all the hype had died down and I was able to read and appreciate the books for what they were, without the heavy bias of the excitement surrounding them upon their release.
BOOK ? CLUBS ? ARE ? DEATH ?
I’ve been compulsively joining book clubs since I was sixteen. My favorites being those that follow the Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge list. At one point in my life, I was a part of three book clubs following the Gilmore’s reads, which equates to three (typically) gargantuan novels to read all within a thirty-day period. I can handle one book for sure, but voluntarily reading the entire works of Dorothy Parker, Moby Dick, and Othello is a bit much for my monogamous reading habits.
Living a short subway ride away from the famous Strand Books in Manhattan is dangerous. Not only am I a card swipe away from spending my life’s savings on books, I am also dangerously close to making my TBR everlasting. If I keep purchasing books at my current rate, I’ll never be able to get through all the books I own and keep obtaining.
The most heart-breaking thing of being a monogamous reader, or any reader really, is coming to terms with the fact that I’ll never be able to read all the books I want to within my lifetime. No matter how many books I’d love to read, there will always be books left unread.
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Right now I’m reading A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, and it is ruining me. I can’t stop thinking about it, I’m so engrossed. I don’t know if I’ve ever read a book that knows its characters so well, that draws them so exquisitely, the flows so fluidly… Okay, like I definitely have, but very, very rarely. So here’s a list of gifs that I illustrate how much this book is eating my life.
When you’re trying to live your day-to-day life but you can’t stop thinking about the book you’re reading and having flashbacks to particularly effecting scenes, especially the one you read on the train this morning that made you stop and stare into space (much like this gif) in total shock and awe for several minutes only to realize that you were in fact staring directly into the eyes of a stranger.
When you’ve been pretending to listen to your coworkers as they tell you things and then they ask your opinion but you don’t have any opinions on anything anymore other than the book over which you’re currently obsessing.
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When you’re meant to be doing work but instead you’re thinking about the exquisite and beautifully realized relationships between the characters in the book you’re reading.
When you have finally taught yourself to be able to read on the subway and you’re trying to finish this chapter before your stop.
When you are driven so completely demented by how obsessed you are with a book that you begin composing a dramatic letter to the author to let them know what they’ve done to you, only to realize that you are alone and you do not yet have an assistant whose job it is to dictate your correspondence and you’re just shouting at the mirror and also you should go to bed.
Glad I got all of this out in the open as I’m sure you can all relate. It’s like this for everyone, right? Right??
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It’s always good to get reading recommendations, and who better to get them from than the intelligent and attractive Bookstr staff with their notoriously good taste?
Mercedez Pulse – Editorial
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I recently finished reading Problems by Jade Sharma and I highly recommend it! It’s a fairly quick read that takes complicated topics, such as drug addiction, the effects of addiction on relationships and identity and discusses them in a way in which all audiences can understand and identify with.
The narrator, Maya, is a young addict whose dependence on heroin wreaks havoc on her personal and professional life. Maya is deeply flawed, constantly ignores the emotions and needs of others, and is inherently selfish. And yet I absolutely love her character.
Narrators with drug addictions are not exactly uncommon, and Maya’s story isn’t the most original idea an author has concocted. But what makes this story stand out from the rest of its kind is the obscure way in which Maya is completely relatable. Maya is cynical, sarcastic (really freaking sarcastic) and isn’t exactly a people person. For people like myself, she is not only easy to relate to, but is entertaining to follow. I can’t begin to tell you how many stories I’ve read in which the protagonist is either incredibly self-pitying or obnoxiously jovial. Despite her flaws, her ability to call bullshit on the world around her is so refreshing and makes it worth investing your time in the story. Publishers Weekly gave it this review:
Sharma’s debut novel is an uncompromising and unforgettable depiction of the corrosive loop of addiction. . . . there is a propulsive energy in Maya’s story, guided by her askew yet precise perspective . . . in Maya’s voice, Sharma has crafted a momentous force that never flags and feels painfully honest.
Chris Eder – Editor
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I’m reading Else Roesdahl’s The Vikings, which is awesome. It’s basically a textbook of Viking facts. Learning about medieval Scandinavians may sound painfully boring, but it’s not. For example, did you know Vikings had fine-toothed combs? They were very into grooming. Also, the areas that moved past haggling (Denmark, Sweden, parts of Norway) used silver as currency, which can get heavy. So what they’d do is double their silver jewellery as currency. If they wanted to buy a silk tunic from the east, they might take off their silver necklace and hack a piece off.
Other surprising things Vikings had access to: tweezers, nail clippers, cushions, griddles. Basically, the book is all about those Viking facts. I TA’d a Viking lit class for two semesters in grad school, so the Vikings have a special place in my cold heart.
Francesca Contreras – Editorial
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I recently read a really touching novel by Jhumpa Lahiri called The Namesake. It’s her first novel and it follows Bengali couple Ashimi and Ashoke’s move from India to Boston and how they find their way through the trials and tribulations of marriage. When they welcome their first child, rather than sticking to a tradition, Ashoke names his son Gogol because, when he was younger, a train accident nearly killed him and he believed that the book he was reading on the train, The Overcoat by Nikolai Gogol, saved his life. As Gogol grows up, his name becomes the center of all struggles in balancing family and friends, culture and belonging. Its uniqueness is what defines him yet tears him apart as he tries to find himself.
Although it only sounds like uphill battles, this is a sweet, sentimental story about family, love, identity, and the tides of life. Everyone has felt the way Gogol does about his parents and upbringing. It’s okay to fly off and go somewhere, but you can’t forget where you came from. Lahiri’s voice comes across as soothingly familiar, a feature that makes her work so popular. Try watching the film adaptation of the same name. This is definitely one for the heart and soul.
Hilary Schuhmacher – Editorial
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Once again, I’m reading Chuck Palahniuk’s Lullaby. Reporter Carl Streator has been investigating a series of cases of sudden infant death syndrome. After he unintentionally murders his wife and newborn after reading them an African chant from a book titled Poems and Rhymes Around the World, he discovers that in each case he’s investigating, the book is not only in the child’s room, but open to the same page.
The “culling song” has the power to kill anyone it’s spoken to and eventually Carl finds out that the song’s power works even through thought, after memorizing the poem and unintentionally becoming a serial killer. His victims include, but are not limited to, rude radio hosts and people who elbow their way into elevators before people have gotten off. It’s a great book, give it a read.
Laura-Blaise McDowell – Editor
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I’m reading Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff. As a rule, I really trust the National Book Award, for which this was nominated in 2015. It’s never steered me wrong, and this is no exception. An all-knowing narrator explores the points of view of various passing characters (including, at one point, a cat) while focusing on those of the protagonists Lotto (full name: Lancelot Satterwhite) and Mathilde, whom she tracks from birth onwards. The story is interspersed with classical references and excerpts from plays Lotto has written, which can at times become a little tedious, but that’s pretty much my only complaint. The way in which Groff navigates between characters makes the reader feel as if they are nose-diving like a bird into the minds of each character before returning to the sky, the greater plot of the story, with an image of something huge and all encompassing; the ocean or space. It’s really incredible.
While this narrator lets us in on almost every minute detail of the lives and thoughts of the characters, what keeps the reader hungry for more is the staggered and skillful way in which Groff delivers the information. You are constantly surprised and things are often not as they seem. Her examination of the terrible truths of the everyday lives of people in love is just astonishing. She’s a true wordsmith as well. Her grasp and manipulation of language is unique and the text is absolutely glittering with stunning sentences. While the general premise, the tracking of two people’s lives, is not necessarily the first of its kind, the way in which Groff approaches the story, the voice, the writing, the images are all unique and quite unlike anything else I’ve read. I’m into it.
Feature Image Via Annie Pratt