readingWhen I first added this Book Riot article to the Morning Links last week, I only gave it a cursory read. The core premise seemed interesting:  writer Jeremy Anderberg proposed a reading goal for 2015, to read ‘less’—he wanted to spend his time on other hobbies too, and felt he was too constrained by making reading his default leisure activity.

But in the rest of the article, Anderberg goes deeper, and I found his premise grow more debatable. Yes, I too have found my interest increasingly occupied by other activities, and I too relate to his desire to spend his time both on other hobbies and on socializing with people. The highest year I ever had for sheer quantity of books read was the year before I met the Beloved—in other words, the year I had pretty much given up on ever finding a love and a family and a life. I would not want to return to that place in my life, even if it meant reading all of the books in the world. But here is where Anderberg and I start to diverge:

“I firmly believe that reading should compel us to growth. And at some point, a point which will be different for each person, it no longer does that. It reaches oversaturation. I believe I’ve hit that point. It’s really just a feeling I’ve had recently while reading that “this isn’t contributing to me — to who I am.” If we just read read read forever, what’s the point? Shouldn’t our reading compel us to action in some way?”

I am going to weigh in on Anderberg’s question with a resounding ‘no.’ I think SOME of our reading should perhaps function in this way. But I don’t think there is anything wrong with picking up a frothy romance or mystery and cuddling up on the couch with a blanket and a hot drink and just…relaxing with it.

I think this productivity mindset can be a very North American thing. I remember when I lived overseas for a year during graduate school, my mother used to call me every weekend and eagerly ask me for updates on what I had done that week. ‘I hope you are taking advantage of EVERY OPPORTUNITY!’ she’d say. My local neighbours found this idea baffling. Many weekends, they would happily drive me to a beach or a waterfall or whatever local sight I wanted to partake in. But they did it with this air of bemusement for the North American who always had to ‘do’ something. Their default weekend activity seemed to be to open some beers, sit on their lawn and wait to see who came over to visit with them. On a really ambitious weekend, they might drive to the beach, open the beers there and then sit and wait.

If Anderberg is seeking to balance his life in a more holistic way, perhaps he should seek to apply that same filter to his reading. Some of it can and should propel him to personal growth. Other books can be chosen just for the enjoyment factor—no growth needed.

As for me, I don’t think I’m going to set any goals this year. Last year, I had several ambitious ones. Most of them got evolved or modified over the course of the year because they stopped meeting my needs. I did hit 50 this year, and I think that’s a realistic target for me. Any more than that—even though I am capable—would mean sacrificing in other areas of my life that are just as important to me. So I am just going to read, enjoy, and aim for balance in this, as in all areas.


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