book stress

So I’ve been feeling more and more stressed lately, with a difficult job project, not knowing when my husband’s surgery will be while he continues to feel worse, talking about moving to a less stressful town for both of us after his surgery but again, not knowing when that will be… and on top, all of my reading challenges… so I decided to cut back on a few of those, at least for now, maybe I’ll come back to some later!

I realized that, as nice as it is to continue to broaden the scope of what I read, I sometimes do it at the expense of the types of books I really would prefer to read. For example, in my last year of university, I wanted to start reading more modern classic female authors like A.S. Byatt and Carol Shields, but soon decided oh wait, I don’t read enough men so went off and did a lot of that but I still haven’t read any Carol Shields (except for one short story)! I enjoy Victorian novels, but don’t read them as often as I’d like either (factor in the daunting-ness of them).

So I say, challenges to read outside my comfort zone are all well and good, but at some point, there are certain books and certain types of books that define me more than others. And in times of stress, those are the books I need. Plus I typically only read about 50 books a year, so I’d rather spend that reading the authors I truly care about, that I know will engage and comfort and enlighten me.

One of my favourite book blogs is Vintage Reads,which is so beautiful and restful whenever I go there. Nicola reads what she likes, women authors from the 19th and early 20th century, there’s always a lovely photo and a short review. There isn’t any frantic attention getting that everyone seems to tell you is necessary in order to have a successful blog. I love reading and writing or I wouldn’t be book blogging, but I’ve often wondered why I worry so much what people will think over something that is supposed to be for fun and is completely voluntary and free. (I’m opposed to advertising or money from links or whathaveyou on the grounds that our society/world is already over-saturated with advertising and I won’t add to it if I can help it.)

My last post reminded me that I don’t even read the type of writing I used to enjoy so much, poetic prose. I’m on the computer more often lately (have also cut back the number of blogs I’m following, from about 90 to 43, phew!) and I find my eyes sort of jittering over the page, as if looking for the glow of a screen to take hold on. I couldn’t even relax into Proust like I used to when I pulled out some of his books yesterday. It seemed too hard to force my mind to slow down and work at the slow pace he was drifting in.

I don’t know if this means I need to post less here as well or what. I’ve also been thinking over a writing project that I just didn’t have time to start before, so it seemed. (No, I am not a do a lot of things at once kind of person!)

There’s more I could write about this, about how I want to be myself with the books I read and the way I choose to write about them and worry less about doing things the ‘correct’ way, but I’m going to give my eyes a break for a while. Know that I do admire and support everyone who reads outside their comfort zone and that I’ve found and enjoyed good books by doing this (I never thought I’d like The Unbearable Lightness of Being, but one section of it deeply changed how I look at certain friendships). But but now I want to take the time to stop the rush to keep up with what everyone else is reading and what I think I should be reading and just catch up on those authors I’ve been meaning to read and those I know I’ll deeply enjoy. I want to find more of the type of book I’ll really love, not just another challenging book I can force myself through.

This is one of my biggest problems as a reader. I look for good writing first, but it often comes attached to a story that is hard to read. On the other hand, I don’t want to be so pulled through the story by a rushing plot that I have no time to savour it, as in most mystery novels. I want to relax with good writing, but frankly don’t feel I have enough loved to bits comfort novels. Often the books I most admire get put down as my favourites, but the fact is, they’re not books that are easy to reread. And I wish I could find more books that I loved so much that rereading was the deepest pleasure.

(And on a completely other note, Canada’s Space channel has started showing old Doctor Who every day and may I just say that I prefer Christopher Eccleston over David Tennant and so on?)

11 thoughts on “book stress

  1. Violet says:

    I can relate to what you wrote about spending time with authors and books you really want to, instead of trying to stay in the book-blogger loop by reading other people’s recommendations, joining in challenges etc. I tried that for a while and went through a very painful and prolonged reading slump, because I was not enjoying what I was trying to force myself to read. I have now gone back to reading what I like, and have discovered my reading mojo again.

    As for blogging, I’m a bit over writing posts, but I figure if I want to read other people’s stuff I need to have something to offer in return. Otherwise, it would feel like stalkerish eavesdropping. 🙂

    • Carolyn says:

      Thanks for your support and I’m glad you can understand. Taxing my brain trying to think of a nondepressing book set in Africa for a world reading challenge (worthy as that is and yes, maybe I need to read more internationally, etc) or realizing that most French books are deeply pessimistic, after signing up to read some… it just became Not Fun. I like to challenge myself to read more broadly but at the same time, I like to be able to break my own rules whenever I want to. I am a person of many ever changing whims! I’m becoming more excited about reading again, now that I’m just letting myself be myself and read how I want to.

      • Amateur Reader says:

        Nondepressing books set in Africa:

        Amos Tutuola: The Palm-Wine Drunkard or My Life in the Bush of Ghosts

        Ousmane Sembène: The Money Order or Xala

        Aminata Sow Fall: The Beggars’ Strike

        Birago Diop: Tales of Amadou Koumba

        Fatou Diome: The Belly of the Atlantic

        All but the first are Senegalese writers. There’s more where these came from, although I understand why the “nondepressing” criterion is a challenge.

  2. Joan Hunter Dunn says:

    I enjoyed, as I always do, reading your post and then re read the name of your blog – A Few of my Favourite Books. Your name says it all and gives you justification, if it were at all needed which it isn’t, to read just that – ‘A few of your favourite books.’ Happy Reading

    • Carolyn says:

      Thank you and yes, I did choose that name for a reason! In part because I had The Sound of Music with ‘these are a few of my favourite things’ imbedded into my brain at a young age when my mom used to watch it all the time! But also because I love finding out what my favourite books are and how they define me.

  3. Emily says:

    Hi Carolyn, thanks for the comment, I know exactly what you mean. I’ve gone back to uni part time for my english degree because for some strange reason it works out about half the price overall of doing a full time degree. I don’t know if it’s the same in Canada. And I reckon I’d spend that much doing silly leisure courses because I’m bored anyway. And I have to say, I’m loving it! Part of me keeps kicking myself and saying why didn’t I do this in the first place, but I’m sort of glad I waited actually because I know I’m doing much better at it than I would have 10 years ago and getting more out of it. I write too and I know I’m a better writer than I was 10 years ago. I used to panic because I thought if you hadn’t achieved something major by the time you were 25 you never would, but now I find it quite reassuring that you just keep getting better at stuff the older you get. So it’s never too late!
    PS – have you read Fingersmith by Sarah Waters? Fantastic victorianesque novel, real page turner and she’s a brilliant writer. It’s got everything you need for that total enjoyment factor!

  4. Nymeth says:

    I find that the blogs that ignore those supposed rules you have to follow to be successful (of which there are countless versions) are often the ones I enjoy the most. And sometimes it worries me that so many of us seem to read the same authors, as surely that’s only a small percentage of what’s out there? I mean, it’s only natural that we’re get excited about the books other people tell us are great and will want to read them too, but it’s also good to try to bring something new to the table.

    I’m sorry to hear things have been stressful lately. Wishing you the very best on the job front, and the same to your husband when it comes to his health.

    • Carolyn says:

      Good advice and thank you. When I started this blog in April, I just wanted to get comfortable with book blogging and find a few like-minded people, but now I think I’m going to enjoy branching out more into different types of posts about books.

  5. Christina says:

    I can definitely relate to over-planning my reading list! I’m still determined to finish all my challenges (because I am competitive like that), but when I’m done, I’m going to take a break and re-read some of my favorite books. It’s been so long since I’ve allowed myself to re-read something!

    Your comment about the fast pace of most mystery novels reminded me of Death in the Garden by Elizabeth Ironside. While it is a mystery, I also remember it having a slower pace and some very nice prose. It’s been a while since I read it, but I remember enjoying it, and it sounds like you might too. Just a thought — obviously I don’t want to add more pressure! 🙂

    • Carolyn says:

      Thanks for the book recommendation, I’ve requested it from the library and it does look like the kind of golden age cozy mystery that I enjoy.

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