Saturday, July 17, 2010
Changing Reading Habits
That may be putting it a bit harshly. What I think I mean to say is: Have you ever wondered what your life would be like without your book blog? If you had never started it? If you quit now?
I do. I feel that, inevitably, having a blog has affected my reading habits and preferences. And not all of it is for the better. Yes, I've been exposed to a ton more YA literature since the inception of this blog. Whereas I barely read any YA during my first two years of college, in 2009 I read over 200 books, most of them YA. The number of books I own has multiplied significantly, as has my TBR pile. Now I will never be for a lack of something to read.
And yet, it is also this abundance of books, choices, and opportunity that seems to be a burden at times. How many times have we looked at our piles and piles of books to be read and been at a loss for what we want to read next? How many times have we guiltily picked up a book to read that wasn't from our gargantuan review pile? How many times have I had book A.D.D., or a reading slump, and then felt horrible that I wasn't reading reading reading all the time, because I have more books than I probably will ever be able to finish in my lifetime, if this pace of book acquisition and publication and lusting after not-yet-released books continues?
Sometimes, I think having a book blog is bad for my mental health.
(Then again, it wasn't very stable to begin with. I am a weird being. My friends can attest to that.)
I've been told by well-meaning people, just step away from your blog for a while. Take a break. You deserve it. But that is, of course, easier said than done. I LOVE retreats--my idea of a vacation is to go somewhere beautiful and secluded for myself for a period of time--but the thought of being away from the YA industry world, of not being on top of new releases, deals, Twitter, and whatnot, is, frankly, terrifying. I remember the early months of 2009, when I had just started blogging, and how torturously out of the loop I felt (and was) about everything YA. There I was, two years out of reading YA regularly, and I was suddenly being bombarded with years and years' worth of recommendations, news, new and old author news, and more. There is always that insecurity slump several months into blogging, when you've pretty much established a working routine and are consistently producing material, and yet there is so much more out there than you can handle. You feel like you can never catch up. You falter. You sink into the blues. How, you say to yourself, can you ever think of becoming an established and well-respected blogger if you can't even keep up with just general news and be "in the know"?
I think I'm afraid that if I stop (and sometimes I so very much want to), I'll never be able to start again.
How has blogging changed your reading habits? I think I have a much lower tolerance for books I don't connect with now. In the past, I'd most likely continue slogging through a book even if in the end it wasn't my thing. These days, I really wish I could put down books I don't connect to within the first 30 pages. I mean, come on: I have several hundred books in my TBR pile, I really would prefer to spend my time reading books I enjoy, thank you very much. But such is the commitment one makes when one blogs, the commitment to give more attention and patience to a book sent to you for review than you would've given it had it just been a book from your own purchases or library. I still haven't found a good balance between giving a review book that's not my thing a chance and knowing when to set it aside. (Note to self: work on that in the future.)
Reader's Bill of Rights, that I have the right to put down a book if I'm not interested in it. But being a human being, being social, taking part in this dance of relationships and communication and etiquette, means that there is an exchange of trust and responsibility taking place. Whether we want to or not, admit it or not, we pay more attention to those things we have more connecting threads with, that we have more personal interest in. Tell me you'd give more of a chance to a book written by a friend, than one written by someone whom you know nothing about, because he or she is one of the last holdouts in this 21st-century social media publicity world.
I don't like the panicky feeling I get in my chest when my gaze falls on the boxes and boxes of books that I say I intend to read "sometime in the future." Reading shouldn't give me anxiety attacks. When I go on long vacations with limited Internet access, I prefer taking classics with me, which does nothing for the appalling size of my TBR review pile. And I know I spend more time each day online, checking all my blogging- and reading-related sites, than I do writing or reading.
Can I really say that I have healthier reading habits now than I had, say, three years ago?
I'm not quite sure I have an answer to that.
I'm leaving for a cruise up to glorious Canada with my aunt, uncle, and family friend tomorrow, with limited Internet access and phone for the next five days. I have scheduled posts, of course (the only way I can manage to post all the reviews I've written), but I'll essentially be offline until Thursday. It'll be like a mini-retreat for me. In the meantime, I'd love to hear what you guys think about the blogging experience, and whether or not it has changed your reading habits. Is there anything you miss about not having a blog?
(Disclaimer: This is by no means something like the beginning of the end for me. I'm pretty sure I will continue blogging and reviewing books at least until I finally get a book published--after which I should probably keep my mouth more shut in an attempt at industry neutrality. I just needed to get this off my chest, this thing that has kept inspiration hidden from me for the last month or so.)