Reading can be one of those pastimes: the more you enjoy them, the more time you want to devote.
Yet reading also seems to inspire feelings of guilt in those that love it most. And once you start the blogging journey and begin putting your thoughts and reviews on online for others to see, those feelings can overwhelm the love you had for reading in the first place.
But what is it about reading that makes us feel so guilty?
We don’t read enough
This is a big one. It doesn’t matter if you read five books a year or 50, there are so many amazing novels out there, it’s easy to feel the need to read more and discover new writers.
I sometimes get caught up in the cycle of reading books as quickly as possible, just to have read them, when I should be focusing on the story and how the writer chooses to tell it.
We don’t challenge ourselves
Often I will choose books because I think they’ll be a quick and entertaining read. It might be a crime thriller with a page turning story, or a light YA drama. I’m keen to read as many books as possible, so sometimes I take the path of least resistance.
Anything on my bookshelf that’s a bit thicker, or more densely written, gets put off for another day. I tell myself I’ll read it the next time I’m on holiday or when I have a sick day.
And the book will sit on the shelf taunting me, as the throwaway fiction piles up around it.
We’ve read too few of the classics
I think a lot of people associate classic fiction with school and it can be off-putting when choosing something to read, especially if you’re purely interested in reading for entertainment.
And it can be difficult to choose the right novel. For every beautifully written story with engaging characters, there are two heavy tomes written in impenetrable language that explore themes with no relevance to modern life.
We don’t understand every book
It can be incredibly disheartening to read the latest great book, the one that everyone is raving about, and come away from it thinking: huh, what was so great about that?
Or you read reviews and essays of a novel you struggled with and you don’t recognise the story that is being discussed on the page. The article talks about themes you never grasped, and analyses the motives of the characters in a way that makes no sense to you. It leaves you feeling foolish, as though you’re not capable of reading an intelligent novel. You’re not a proper reader because you didn’t enjoy something that’s on its way to becoming a part of the literary canon.
We read books we don’t enjoy
It’s okay to read a book for nothing more than the pleasure of reading. I wasted a lot of years forcing myself to complete every novel I started, no matter how dull, badly written or uninspiring it was. As a result, I’ve read a huge number of mediocre books that I remember little to nothing about.
What was the point?
Now I’m less compelled to finish something if it doesn’t grab me. I like to give the writer a fair chance, as not everything will grab me from the beginning.
But there are always other books out there, just waiting to be discovered. Books that could change your life. Why waste your precious reading hours on a book that makes you dread reading?
Guilt is never a good thing when it comes to reading. It gets in the way and forces us to make bad choices. We battle our way through stories we don’t enjoy, or that don’t have meaning for us. And our love for reading begins to wane.
Sure it’s great to read the important books, the ones with something profound to say. It’s worth studying a book and allowing yourself to understand it on a deeper level.
But the main thing is simply to read. Give yourself a chance to get lost in a book and if you enjoy it, even better.