In 2018, I set myself 3 ‘Reading Goals’ for the year.
- To read every day, even if it was only for 10 minutes.
- To only read books I hadn’t read before.
- To read a book a week, so 52 in a year.
Coming out of it, I felt triumphant; reading had become an almost daily habit for me again – I read on around 85% of days – and though I didn’t quite make my goal, I finished on 43 books. This was more than I had read in the previous 5 years combined, and it felt like a huge victory.
In 2019, I knew I would be facing some huge new challenges. I have other time consuming hobbies, such as playing tabletop RPGs, and I started a new degree at University in March. I knew I’d be busy, so I aimed lower, with a target of 30 books for the whole year.
Guys, I am failing so hard.
I started the year with the incredible Normal People by Sally Rooney, and felt good about my goals. And then… nothing. Everything I read disinterested me, I felt like I had zero free time, the idea of making time for reading felt stressful. I was overwhelmed and I DNF-d about 5 books in a row.
I started re-reading The Belgariad in an attempt to break out of this Reading Slump From Hell, but what with starting my degree and struggling to juggle the demands of my life I bailed midway through the 3rd book in the series, Magician’s Gambit.
Moreso than this, I have a confession to make. During the 5 weeks that I have been resolutely Not Reading Anything, I have spent roughly 50 hours playing Stardew Valley. 50. Freaking. Hours.
Reading has become yet another ‘responsibility’ on my never-ending list of tasks and, like a petulant child who doesn’t want its nutritious dinner, I have sullenly pushed my plate away, pouting, and demanded pizza.
I am, to put it bluntly, furious with myself. Yeah, sure, I’ve enjoyed my downtime so far this year, but really I would also have enjoyed that time and felt happier with myself it at least some of it had been spent reading. But at the same time, starting books over and over again only to have them completely not grab you and feel bored and annoyed when you should be enjoying yourself is quite hard to persist with when your Relaxing Alone Time is extremely limited and vitally important to your mental health. The little time I have for these things is time I want to spend happy, not frustrated. Myself and Books are currently at something of an impasse.
Yesterday, I hastily packed in the morning for a weekend at my boyfriend’s house. I knew I would have a few hours to myself when I got there before he got in from work. Normally, I’d be packing a book that would remain in my bag unread as I resolutely scrolled through my phone. So, I took a gamble.
I packed Kim Reaper: Grim Beginnings, the first volume of a comic series by the hilarious and adorable Sarah Graley. I have a few, unread, graphic novels on my shelves. They usually fall to the bottom of my To Read list because they take me so little time to read, are so so easy. I rarely buy them for this reason; the short timescale of their consumption makes them feel like less value for money than a paperback novel. Now, however, what once made them less appealing made them more appealing than any of the other, potentially disappointing, unread titles that fill my bookcase.
If it was boring, I only spent 45 minutes on it, rather than 45 minutes every day for 2 weeks. If it was only Fun rather than Earth-Shatteringly Fantastic – well, again, it’s only 45 minutes, right?
It didn’t require much concentration after a morning spent studying hardcore Anatomy & Physiology at University; it was genuinely relaxing.
It did, in the end, only take me 45 minutes to read.
It was amusing, the art was super fun, it was cute as heck.
I finished it. I finished a book I hadn’t read before for the first time since January. The first book I’ve finished in 8 weeks. It was fun, it was satisfying, it was great.
Yesterday evening I went online and ordered 5 more first volume of comics, including the highly praised Lumberjanes and something epic sounding called Rat Queens, a D&D-based M-rated all-female fantasy romp. I feel like this is it, for me, for the foreseeable future: funny stories, awesome female characters, epic art, mega adventures. If graphic novels can finally get me spending my downtime reading and enjoying it again, then that’s what I’ll read. I had fun yesterday, and hopefully I’ll have just as much fun with my new mini-collection. I’m certainly hopeful.
Who knows, maybe I’ll make my 30-book target for the year after all.