Have you ever juggled 3 or 4 books in your reading list all at the same time?
Believe me, it doesn’t sound as many or as confusing as you think. If I may so myself, it is proper book behavior. Don’t you remember?
In school, we were taught different subjects every year, which means we were asked to read a gazillion books that early. If you were like me, required reading in school wasn’t enough (and this was even before the Internet). I grew up rummaging my dad’s book shelves for leisure reading or saving my lunch money to buy all the Sweet Valley and Goosebumps books I could find. We also had a whole shelf of encyclopedia and a huge Webster’s dictionary that I devoured when there’s nothing to read anymore. My fairytale books were also a staple in my study table. I was also a suki when it comes to borrowing from the library. Suffice it is to say, voracious reading was as inevitable in my home as much as it was a conscious decision.
However, it all toned down when I joined the corporate world.
Granted that a million more responsibilities just became more important more demanding of your time and attention than your love for reading, there are still ways to get your reading habit as better as before. Harvard Business Review has listed 8 ways to read more books in a year. They are sage, practical and quite an effective advice. The HBR list encourages discipline, conscious effort and commitment. Like in all things in life, reading a book is taking the relationship more seriously.
Personally, I am more concerned with enjoying my reading. What’s life without pleasure, right? I really don’t want to be pressured to read so many books for the sake of reading. I want to be happy doing it. Developing your reading behavior should be an enjoyable journey.
Gilmore Girls’ Rory Gilmore once shared with Dean how she carries many books with her because her mood can change anytime and she wants a perfect book to go with it. I still remember how she lugged such a big bag to school, because she always brought so many books with her (and she has a goddamn locker!)
So many books, so little time. Thankfully, with ebooks today, you can just bring one gadget to satiate your current reading desires. (Of course, real books are better, don’t get me into that whole debate. An electronic version of the book should be a supplement, and NOT a substitute, to what you’re reading at the moment.)
Anyway, here’s how I have built my reading list over the years. Remember the time when you have to read natural sciences, social studies, humanities and politics for school? Well this time, there are no exams to test you for it, just your personal gauge of divine gratification.
1. A classic
I love how classics always take me to a time I know I could never live in, but which I believed influence the way we live today. It’s always been fascinating to me. I’m grateful to have read a lot of classic literature in class when I was in college (and they were discussed well) or when I decided to self-read throughout high school because our reading list sucked in HS. So, some of the most important classics were covered. But it also helps to reread them.
There’s magic in rereading. When you grow older, you get to acquire greater perspectives than when you first read them. Trust me, it’s fun to find out that the characters you used to hate are now your favorites, or the most hurtful situations that made you cry make sense to you now.
It’s the reading version of adulting.
2. A contemporary classic
I usually have a list of my favorite contemporary authors and I stick to them like crazy, meaning it falls under “of course I’d buy them!” Haruki Murakami, Jonathan Franzen, Kazuo Ishiguro, David Foster Wallace, Hillary Mantel, Zadie Smith and Michael Chabon are top of mine. But there’s also another way to contemporize your list. In my usual trips to the book store, I would always find a new author/book to obsess about. It usually begins by choosing a random book and reading the back page or the first few pages before deciding if I will fall in love with it. Good thing, too, that you can always check out reviews online so you’ll be smarter with your money. I didn’t have that luxury years ago. Last year, my successful discoveries with this approach were Helen Oyeyemi, Paul Beatty, Roxane Gay and Colson Whitehead.
3. A Nobel
This is self-explanatory. If you are the reader that you want or claim to be, you should’ve read various Nobel-authored pieces by now.
4. A campy read
Never be ashamed to read books that are juvenile and cheesy but really makes you happy. For what is life without whimsy?
But still no on Fifty Shades of Grey. Because, come on. You can do better than that.
5. Short stories
Too busy to commit to a novel? There are various short stories that are available online now from some of the best novelists as well. Realize how enriching it is to read something so amazing in such few words!
6. Journalism pieces (profiles, interviews, feature-length series, opinion pieces)
There’s no better story than a true story. Truth is stranger than fiction after all. It also opens your eyes to realities, sociopolitical conditions, and cultures that you may never experience. Remember that reality is not only what’s real in your own universe. Reading also takes you to places. Travel is good, but it’s quite expensive and you can only learn so much from all the selfies you take. When you read about them, it’s more visceral than actually being there.
Also, journalists are the most disciplined writers. They won’t fail you with facts or richer perspectives.
7. A Filipino novel
Shame on you if you have read the best of everyone in the entire planet but not your own. Just so you know, we have some of the most talented writers in Asia and probably the world. Don’t be one of those who have never read a Filipino work. It’s embarrassing.
So yes, I try to read 7 different stories at the same time. When I finish with one, I just replace with another, whichever comes first. It doesn’t feel like work when you love doing it.
My post-thoughts: These days, reading seems like a lost art. Yes, most people read but they don’t really understand. Maybe reading different books like when you were a child would take us back to how learning should be. When we read, first, we accept that we know nothing. Then we learn everything.
Mitch Velete is a 32-year old integrated marketing and communications executive for an international law firm. She is also a contributing writer to the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Her hobbies include reading, watching movies and TV, tweeting, Instagramming, playing with her dog Marco, listening to music, and singing her heart out in the car to annoy her boyfriend. In her next lifetime, she wants to be a full-pledged humanitarian rockstar (move over, Bono). Follow her on Twitter here.