One late night in August, I sat down and wrote a “2018 Closing” list.
I was feeling overwhelmed—mind brimming with to dos, goals, and the fear of missing out with time passing too quickly. So I wrote a list of things, mostly practical, that I wanted to accomplish before entering 2019.
Things like, refreshing my LinkedIn profile, cleaning out my desktop, updating our home budget, paying taxes, answering old emails and letters. Tasks that would help me feel like was “going in clean” in 2019—no lingering things that would bog down my mind.
The fourth item on this list: three good books. Because I knew a major root of my dissatisfaction came from not having made proper time to read, and fulfill my mind in an intellectual way one can only achieve from sitting alone with someone else’s words and world. There really is something truly horrible about leading a busy lifestyle on an empty mind. And I had been feeling like that for too long.
So, three good books. Book that would fill me up. That I would have no hesitations to recommend to others in the future. Totally doable.
I am writing this post on December 15, 2018, and I haven’t completed even one. I’ve started several, and have added dozens to my to-read list. But none complete.
I am at my best when I have a good book—a go-to place for my mind to wander, and a more thoughtful way to fill in the spaces in between. So here’s how I vowed to do it differently in 2019. Three simple rules:
Always carry a book.
Habits are built and ingrained in the unexpected times, when life tests your values and priorities. So I have gratefully adopted my boyfriend’s Kindle Paperwhite and taking full advantage of living across the street from the public library. And sure, it’s another thing to pack and carry around. But if it means more intentional escape during unoccupied moments, then it’s totally worth it.
One at a time.
I used to have this thing where if I started a book, I needed to finish it—no matter how much I didn’t care for it. But that’s just a waste of time and self-sabotage. My rule of thumb now is to commit to one book at a time and find closure with each before I turn to the next, whether that closure is to finish the book completely or lovingly close its covers mid-way if it’s just not for me. Commit, decide, move on.
The exception here, at least for me, is when you have a really long book. A book that you know you will enjoy and are excited about, but also know that it will just take a lot of time to read. Maybe it takes more focus than your average book, or perhaps it’s a book not meant to be read for prolonged periods. Examples would be a textbook, or a short story or essay anthology, where the power of each piece is best preserved when read individually in their own time. My current example is Women in Clothes by Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits, and Leanne Shapton. It’s dense, rich, and I love reading just a few pages at a time.
Be guided by pure enjoyment.
No more guilt and no more forcing it. My reading liberation comes in part from saying no to: the “should” books that are not a hell yes; the best-sellers that everyone else is reading but I’m just not that into; the “smart” books during moments my brain is fried and just wants a good adventure or romance. Follow reading moods and phases, and entertain the paths of curiosity.