Creating a Reading System Helped Me Find Joy in Reading Again
Images via Miguel Á. Padriñán & Leah Kelley
Recently a tweet went around that had one of those alignment charts but for book-reading. Things like Lawful Good (read one book at a time, finish it before moving onto the next) were on there, all the way to Chaotic Evil (I can't even type it out it's too horrifying to me).
These alignment charts are something we talk about at work sometimes, where to my dismay everyone has decided that I'm Lawful Good. So I was really pleased to look over this chart and discover that I am, at best, Chaotic Good — I read four or more books at a time, though I make sure to finish them all (well, mostly. I think I've DNF'd a few books in my time, but I do try to finish them all).
And when I tell people how many books I'm reading at a time, they're often shocked, until I explain that I have a "system". I have to have a system for pretty much everything I do, otherwise I can't do it well.
So: my reading system. The books I read are categorized by where I'm reading them: eARC via Kindle from Netgalley; eARC via Adobe reader, also from Netgalley; owned physical book; audiobook loaned from the library. In addition, I have a schedule for the books I'm reading in each category, where I note what I'm currently reading and what's next on the list.
It may not seem like a very complex system, but it feels like it to me, which also works wonders for my brain, which likes to overcomplicate everything.
I started reading this way close to three years ago. I was unemployed, living in the spare bedroom of a couple I'd known my whole life back in South Carolina. I had left New York three months earlier after essentially burning out — I'd been working full-time in a pizzeria and then a cafe for over a year, my mental health was completely frayed, and I had no money left. So I left.
I spent three months with my parents in Italy, where they lived at the time, and then moved back to our home base in South Carolina where this couple oh-so-graciously allowed me to live in their home, eat their food, exist in their presence.
I was trying hard to find a job, and in the meantime I was writing and I was reading. And because otherwise there would be no semblance of routine to my life in the slightest, I created my reading plan.
It isn't fancy—there are no spreadsheets like I know a lot of readers use. I just keep my lists in various apps and update them, crossing off books as I read them. And over the past few years, between moving back to New York, starting a new job on the graveyard shift (and keeping it for more than two and a half years), moving somewhere between 12-15 times in those two and a half years, going from broke to okay to broke back to okay financially, I've tried my best to keep up with the reading schedule.
I haven't always succeeded. I went through months-long periods where I wasn't reading anything. I would read synopses of soon-to-be-released or recently-released books and my fingers would twitch, my brain would twitch, and I just wanted to read them so bad.
But despite all my lists and my good intentions, it wasn't until I regained some kind of stability in my life that I was able to get back into reading.
And now I'm back in and I've surpassed my Goodreads goal by more than half a dozen books and I'm excited about reading again.
And the only thing that keeps me there, really, is my list. My reading system.
I don't think I could go back to reading one book at a time if I wanted to. I've kind of always been this way, even in middle school, when I was reading hundreds of books every year. I had a system and a rotation.
It suits me. It soothes me. It makes reading easy, which is what it should be, after all: easy, enjoyable. Something we do for fun.
And for me, I find the fun by creating and holding onto a system.
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