A Reader Torn

“So many books, so little time.” –Frank Zappa

Never has this little nugget of wisdom rang truer with me than now. Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance is sitting less than a quarter read on my bedside table nearly a month after I started it–school and other commitments have only left room for about a chapter a night. No less than eight books are sitting on my shelves waiting to be read. I’m in the midst of reading The Mortal Instruments series and the Gemma Doyle Trilogy. And every day I get loads of book reviews delivered to my inbox so I can add another book to the ever-expanding list of volumes To-Be-Read.

It’s somewhat masochistic.

I spend a good amount of time trying to organize my reading life. What would be the benefits of reading this book before that one? Should I put aside the books already in my possession to pick up a newer, shinier release? Should I spend by extra time reading (“honing my craft” is my excuse) or actually writing? To top it off, I’ve started experiencing something I call Reader’s Guilt. It comes to me in under various guises:

  • Haven’t-Read-That Guilt. This is experiencing guilt over having not read classics like, in my case, Lord of the Rings, the Chronicles of Narnia, Don Quixote, or anything by H.G. Wells. I feel I should take a break from keeping up with the new stuff and try to build up my reader’s repertoire a bit more.
  • Leaving-a-Series Guilt. I’m experiencing this version of Reader’s Guilt at the moment with the Heroes of Olympus series, one of the various derivatives of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians series.I haven’t read The Son of Neptune and don’t intend to. This type of guilt can also be associated with leaving a once-beloved author; for example, I haven’t read anything by Brandon Mull since his Fablehaven series concluded.
  • Why-Did-I-Buy-It Guilt. Have you ever bought a book and just let it sit there for more than six months? Yup. That pretty much sums up this one. One feels that if a book has been purchased, one is obligated to read it at some point.
  • And, finally– Not-Reading-Enough Guilt. Maybe if I just didn’t check my email in the morning, or spent less time making lunch, I could fit in ten minutes of reading in the morning? Or maybe I could bring my book to school and read in between classes…this is that feeling that tries to guilt-trip you into spending more time reading when you’re already bending your schedule to fit in that daily half-hour.

What about you, readers–how do handle your extensive reading lists? Do you experience any forms of Reader’s Guilt, or am I alone in my suffering?

4 responses to “A Reader Torn

  1. You are not alone in the world of book suffering!! I went to the library just a few hours ago, and the book guilt I am suffering through right now goes something like this: Well. What should I read first!?!?!? So believe me you are not alone. And I really love that picture. 😀

  2. Oh, Allegra, you are so definitely not alone!! I can identify with all four of your ‘guilts’!!

    I read a post once that talked about the un-read books on our shelves, and of course, the final question was “How many un-read books are on your shelves?” I was soooo embarrassed, there was no way I was going to count!! I just signed off….

    And, I wish I asked myself “Why-Did-I-Buy-It?”; then I might be inclined to give them away. But, no, I look at them, maybe open one or two, I know why I bought it and I still want it, and I will get to them sure……

    So, I guess for me “Why-Did-I-Buy-It-Guilt” runs right into “Haven’t-Read-That Guilt”…………. Ahhhhh, those Classics………

    “Leaving-a-Series Guilt” is at a smaller level for me, first because I am OCD about finishing even books I am not liking, second because I try not to read book one if I know it is a series! Unless of course, it is something I am really interested in…….

    As far as “Not-Reading-Enough”, after spending all my reading time on email, and moving from blog to blog to blog to………., whose got time to read books???

    Oh, my……… such is the existence of ‘Book People’……

    Just one more blog after this one………


  3. Can you really be a reader and not possess this guilt? Heh. I’m pondering going through some books to clear my shelves. One of those “why did I buy that” moods.

  4. I get the Guilt all. the. time!!! As I struggle trying to fit in all my loves in life – music, writing/reading, and a long list of other things tied for third – I can’t read as much as I would love! I did have a study hall last semester, first block, so I got to come to school and read for an hour and a half first thing (which was ah-mazing). Great post. Also, props on the Zappa quote; my high school jazz program had a Frank Zappa concert a week or so before that post!

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