My Year of Favorite Authors

bleedys-icons-dockjpgI have a terrible habit.

I’m not talking about anything dark or sinister… just something that is self-frustrating. On the surface, it doesn’t even sound so bad, really. It is this: I like to save the best for last.

This is something I learned at a young age, as a dessert loving foodie. If you save the best bit until last, you don’t have the memory of that taste marred by something lesser.

Unfortunately, though, I don’t always leave this philosophy to food, and it makes much less sense in most other forms. For example: books. Every book lover knows that as readers, we work on a sort of hierarchy  and that hierarchy looks more or less something like the following:

  • Books I have to read right now
  • Books I want to read
  • Books I should want to read
  • Books I want to want to read (You know what I’m talking about. “Why don’t I want to read this?”)
  • Books I have to read (Okay, maybe this is just in school)
  • Books I don’t particularly care to read but that everyone else are reading that I don’t want to be behind on

You all have a hierarchy something like that, yes? Is that just me?

Anyhow. I have, many times, kept books from my favorite series or by my favorite authors in reserve after books of a lower order, as a sort of “treat.” In fact, this started out in school when I had to read books. I would read a “fun” book alongside it and allow myself the pleasure of something I wanted out of the fiction world after reading a chapter or two of what I was supposed to be reading. Somewhere along the path, it morphed into me reading something I sort of wanted to read alongside the book that I really wanted to read, so that I got both books done.

And then it flipped into something I can’t really explain… me keeping books by beloved authors beholden in some sort of guilty way, because I had so many other books that I hadn’t read yet, so I felt as if I didn’t deserve to read the newer books that I really wanted to read. Yes, I became a reader weighed down by her (unspeakably huge) to be read shelf. I was getting to the point where I was barely reading anything. The last handful of years I have read fewer books than ever before in a year, just passing twenty last year.

Just recently I decided this sort of practice was, in a word, ridiculous. It has led to me both being behind the times on books and authors I care about, and has dragged down the enjoyment of reading anything less than stellar. Not even that. Anything that had less than a stellar expectation point for me. Meaning I was stopping myself from discovering new book and author loves that really were stellar.

Last year, my goal was to read something more challenging. I picked up Bleak House by Charles Dickens, but I am a faithless lover when it comes to books, so I also picked up Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Suzanne Clarke, and The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky… and I overwhelmed myself. I’m pressing pause on two of the three, because I am still, yes STILL in the middle of all three of them. I’m some three-fifths done with Bleak House and honestly enjoying it, I just cannot read Dickens fast and enjoy it.

So this year I am going through my books and I am reading first and foremost the unread books I have by authors that I love, like Maggie Stiefvater and Jasper Fforde and series that I really enjoyed the beginning of like Colleen Houck’s Tiger’s Curse, and anything else that I’ve been eyeing. I will still keep Dickens by my side for glances when I feel like it, but I’m not pressuring myself when it comes to reading things I don’t particularly care to this year. Maybe next year I will feel differently, but that is to remain to be seen. For now, I’ve finished one book I’d been dying to read for an age (The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, more on that later), and am looking forward to more.

Do your reading habits change? Do you ever find yourself resenting the book you’re reading, because you want to be reading something else?

Booking Through Thursday Interview

This is really a “part 2,” but I missed “part 1,” so.

 But enough about interviewing other people. It’s time I interviewed YOU.

1. What’s your favorite time of day to read?

I don’t have a favorite time to read, really… My days are usually pretty busy, so I have to squeeze it in any time I can. But I do love cuddling up with a book first thing in the morning.

2. Do you read during breakfast? (Assuming you eat breakfast.)

I don’t usually, but lately The Mr. and I have been listening to the Harry Potter audio books during breakfast. (The Stephen Fry version, which I like so much better than the Jim Dale ones!)

3. What’s your favorite breakfast food? (Noting that breakfast foods can be eaten any time of day.)

Mmm… cheesy omelets, maybe. Or oooh! A ham and swiss croissant. Oh yes.

4. How many hours a day would you say you read?

Probably less than one, unfortunately. Maybe about one, or a little more.

5. Do you read more or less now than you did, say, 10 years ago?

Less, again sadly. When I was young all I DID was read. Oh to have that back… (well, the option, at least!)

6. Do you consider yourself a speed reader?

Not remotely. I’m a fairly slow reader. I like to hear the characters’ voices in my head.

7. If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

Sometimes I think I’d like to freeze time, so I could read and write and finish as many things as I want to.

8. Do you carry a book with you everywhere you go?

I try to.

9. What KIND of book?

Whatever I happen to be reading that is most gripping. Lately I’ve been preferring to carry a blank book, though, because my journaling has suffered even more than my reading these days.

10. How old were you when you got your first library card?

Good question… ten? Twelve? Maybe much younger. I didn’t really start using the library until I was in my twenties, though. I was fairly spoiled in books before that. Then it became a lifeline.

11. What’s the oldest book you have in your collection? (Oldest physical copy? Longest in the collection? Oldest copyright?)

I don’t know that it’s the very oldest, but I have a Longfellow’s Complete Poems by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow that was published in 1899, and it is one of my absolute treasures.

12. Do you read in bed?

Whenever I get the option.

13. Do you write in your books?

No…. not yet, at least. I did tentatively edge into marginalia in college (usually to make snarky remarks on other peoples’ marginalia in library or used books) but I so love the pristine look of a printed page. Maybe when I’m a rich author and can afford to have multiple copies of something to mark one up and keep one lovely.

14. If you had one piece of advice to a new reader, what would it be?

Don’t be afraid to try different things. Or OLD things. Classics are classics for a reason—most of them, at least.

In which I explain my OCD reading habits.

A Real Conversation with my Husband

Me: Sigh. You can only have 15 holds at the library at once.

Him: Heavy sigh.

Me: Can I put 15 holds on your—

Him: NO.

Backstory: According to Goodreads, I’m currently in the middle of eleven books. This includes one book of poetry, four books that are being held captive by the library and holds system, and five that I own. (Was very recently six, plus another library book, but I finished those.)

Anyhow… I was wanting to start Tiger’s Curse, because he bought it for me for Valentine’s Day (along with Sapphique, the sequel to Incarceron, which I loved so much I was tempted to buy Sapphique from the UK Amazon) (Yes, I know I’m lucky.) Then I made the mistake of explaining to him why I fall into the trap of reading more than one book at a time—generally either because one is slow but fascinating, I’ve misplaced the book, or yes, it needs to go back to the library and I haven’t finished it.

I then made the further mistake of explaining to him HOW I read multiple books at one time. Basically, I line whichever books I have up by order of date that I started them (This obviously does not include books taken back to the library unfinished. It does, however, include books that are misplaced.), and then I pick one book as the “A” book, or the Alpha book, I guess. What I mean by this, is that I pick a book that I can read straight through if I wish to, then whenever I want to turn to something else, there’s a set rotation I have to follow. The Alpha book is either a book that I’m particularly hooked to, or a book that I’m bribing myself through, because it’s interesting, but other books are far more interesting. After the Alpha book has been assigned, I read through the books in order, one chapter at a time. If the Alpha book isn’t super great, or great-but-not-insanely-greater-than-the-other-books, my reading pattern is decided for me. With letters assigned to titles for ease of explanation, it reads a bit like a complicated poetry scheme:

ABACADAEABACADAE, etc.

I have siderules, also. Of course. Because I’m just that crazy.

#1) Once a book is in Alpha position, it must stay there until it is completed. (For exceptions, see Rule #5)

#2) If there is no Alpha position, chapters read ABCDEABCDE, etc. (Yes, I know there’s still an A there, but now it’s just another letter.)

#3) In most cases* a book cannot be added unless another book is finished.

#4) No book can be moved to the Alpha position on its first round.  This means if I’m in the middle of a round when I start a new book, I must finish that round and read through another full round before the new book can be given the Alpha position. Except:

#5) Library books are automatically given Alpha position. This means that any book that was acting as Alpha now goes back into line. This is the only time an Alpha book can be taken away from its Alpha position without being finished. When the library book is finished, assuming the other book is not, it moves back into Alpha position.

#6) (This is a new one) These rules apply only to physical copies of books.

#6a) I am allowed to have ONE of each: 1) an audio book for when I’m doing stuff with my hands but my mind is free 2) a book on my phone to read when I have no other books available to me, and 3) an ebook on my computer.

#6b) I can use the same book for all three devices if I choose, but cannot read a secondary book on any of the devices, even if all three are the same.

*This rule excludes library books and long-time favorite authors’ new books.

Understandably, my husband demanded that I put a stop to the insanity. He withheld Tiger’s Curse from me until I at least get down to 3 books (physical… he agrees with me on the techie side of things, yay!) but I think I’ll let myself get down to two, and read two at once… that’s usually my goal, one Alpha, and one to string along… I don’t know.

Anybody else out there read in completely obsessive-compulsive ways?