Then reading slowed down. In high school I had to read for english class and I enjoyed that. In college I was no longer in english. I had engineering, physics, math, and they all had their own textbooks, and I felt like if I was reading then that's what I should be reading. No more stories. Even after college, at the bookstore I bought books I felt like engineers "should" buy. Non-fiction about the latest physics theories or computer history. Since I never had philosophy or religion or women's studies classes in college, I felt like I should make up for that void. But I didn't really enjoy those books. I'd buy one, then drag myself through it. For months I'd have a book or two on the nightstand, I'd go through a few pages when I couldn't sleep. People would talk about books they enjoyed but I didn't want to move on to another book until I finished the one I'd just bought, because I felt guilty looking at my bookshelves and seeing perfectly good books I hadn't gotten to yet.
I moved in with my roommate and she kept trite page-turner novels that were on sale at Target. I felt very elite with my physics books. Then one weekend, I picked up one of her Jodi Picoult books and plowed through it in three days. I felt bad because it was cheesy, but on the other hand I'd actually finished a book. At the same time, a coworker lended me The Physics of Star Trek and I made it through that and enjoyed it. I had to make it through because it was a borrowed book, you can't just steal someone else's book for months at a time, you have to read at least half so you can fake like you know what it's about.
So I decided the following:
- No book should get to take up The Space on my nightstand forever, while there are other perfectly good books to read.
- It's okay to read something for fun.
- I have to stop buying books. They make me feel guilty, staring at me. Plus, borrowing a book gives you a deadline... read or give it back.
- There's got to be something in between trashy chick-lit and string theory.
I go to the library these days. I'm not perfect about it but I have a library card. I try to avoid renewing anything. If the book hasn't captured my interest after three weeks, I give it up. Even if I like the language or the basic story, I can't dedicate my life to one book. Life is too short. I go to the library and walk to a section, usually sci-fi/fantasy. I look for an author with more than one book on the shelf... that means the author must be worth something. I pick an interesting looking title after making sure it's not book 2 in a series of 7 or something crazy like that.
I also feel okay having a "lunch break book" and a book at home. I eat lunch at my desk a lot, and it's nice to get a break from the computer screen, but I try to read something businessy. The three-week policy still applies and it can't keep me from reading fiction, that's the rule. So I read "Winning" by Jack Welch and now I'm reading "Good to Great".
This summer I read Beguilement by Lois McMaster and I liked it because it was sweet, character-driven, had magic and surprise smut. I didn't know this at the time but it was a "fantasy/romance" and normally I wouldn't be caught dead with a romance novel but that was the old me, the new me wants to try new things, and I did. I really liked it, I was totally rooting for the main characters to succeed against dark forces, and hook up. Win!
Then I read Maximum Light by Nancy Kress and it was a little disturbing, but a really fast read. It's about the future and big government conspiracies. If you want to rush though a book in a weekend and feel kinda creeped out, I'd recommend it.
Currently I'm reading The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin. I violated my policy... I renewed it after three weeks. But I won't renew it again. I'm about 2/3 of the way through and it's a beautiful novel, I might finish it but if not I can't feel bad. I really like it, she's invented a complex culture with some really intense scenes but it's not grabbing me like the faster reads do. I can let it go if I have to.
I think reading is like exercise in that I feel like a better person when I'm reading, and it's nice to curl up in a chair sometimes with a book and not have to think about anything else... enjoy the quiet and be one of those thoughtful people who reads. I just have to find what works for me.