I’m Lauren, I read books, and I feel guilty 85% of the time.
Compared to previous years, this is an improvement.
Even with my favorite hobbies, I feel no small amount of guilt.
(I jokingly ascribed this to Protestant work ethic…and it turns out I was RIGHT.)
In the hopes that some of you might relate, I present the bookish habits I feel guilty about most often.
My friend Shane mentioned once that he feels silly watching the same movies over and over again when new films are being released all the time.
I feel the exact same way about books.
I have limited time both in the day and on this earth.
How can I waste time rereading Ninth House or The Raven Cycle when there are so many exciting new stories waiting to be discovered?
As such, I rarely reread books, even when I want to.
Sometimes I start a book feeling super excited about it and then I get…distracted.
As soon as I start feeling invested, I think about reading (or rereading) something else.
I tell myself, “I’ll just finish this OTHER book really quick, then I’ll come back and finish THIS one.”
Then I do the exact same thing with the new book.
This results in me reading twelve books at a time.
I started a sequel I was really excited about two months ago. I read one chapter and haven’t picked up the book since.
Yes, I want to know what happens. I also want to read the entirety of Good Omens first. Before I finish Good Omens, though, I want to finish The Captive Prince. But then I can’t read The Captive Prince because my copy of Weather Girl just arrived. But before I pick up Weather Girl, I have to finish My Broken Languages for book club.
You see my dilemma.
I hate, hate, hate DNFing books.
I feel so awful every time I do it, even when the book I’m reading is atrocious or offensive or irritates me in some way at the 90% mark.
I’ve DNFed almost a dozen books this month. They weren’t bad books! I enjoyed some of them! I just…didn’t care to know how they ended.
Funnily enough, I used to DNF even more often. When I was in junior high and high school, I DNFed books left and right.
Now that I track my reading, I’m aware of how often I DNF books. That’s where the guilt comes in.
I feel like I’m doing something wrong if I’m not somehow suffering. Therein lies the whole problem.
I HAVE the money to buy books IF I WANT TO. I also subscribe to a few book services that allow me to read e-books and audiobooks without paying for each one individually.
Whenever I even THINK about buying a physical book, I chide myself for not checking either Scribd or Kindle Unlimited first.
When said book isn’t available on either, I STILL feel like a hack for not checking said book out from the library.
I realize that I CAN enjoy books without spending any money AND that I have a habit of accumulating books.
Sometimes, though, those mass market paperbacks really speak to me. Nothing beats the feeling of holding a soft cover book in my hands.
I want them, I buy them, and I feel eternally guilty.
My book buying habit caught up to me in the middle of the pandemic.
I knew authors (especially debut authors) were struggling, so I preordered numerous 2020 and 2021 releases as a show of support, forgetting that I live in a studio apartment.
I bought so many books, you couldn’t see my carpet.
As the books piled up, I started panicking. I could not see how I could possibly make time to read all of them.
Because I’d spent so much money on them, I felt like I couldn’t get rid of any books without first reading them. I’d bought them to support the authors, after all – that meant reading every single purchased page.
The books I’d bought in good faith for my own enjoyment began feeling like an obligation.
These days, I’m a bit more discerning about the books I buy. I try to only purchase books I’m VERY excited about, know I will read relatively soon, and can’t find on other platforms.
I’m trying not to go too far lest I get rid of all my books for vague spiritual reasons.
Then again, I unhauled almost 90 books at the end of last year, so it’s possible I’m too late.
Not taking advantage of my local library
Checking out books from the library gives me deadline panic.
Keeping physical library books in my house is not unlike owning a loud, ticking clock; I feel the crunch of the deadline every time I look at them.
And no, Cheryl, I can’t just renew them. Peak Picks, audiobooks, and e-books are not eligible for renewal at my local library.
Also, as I mentioned before, I’m a MOOD reader. Just because I want to read a book doesn’t mean I want to read it during a very specific two- or three-week period! My moods are fickle!
I’d rather own a book so I can read it on my own time.
Obviously this makes me a financially irresponsible enemy of democracy.
Reading trendy books
Now that The Wheel of Time is a show on Amazon Prime, I want to read the books.
Surely there are other, more worthy books than this popular fantasy series, yet here I am going along with the crowd.
Some sort of hipster logic has me thinking I’m not a Real Reader unless I’m reading obscure and underappreciated texts.
You know…like The Catcher in the Rye.
If I am sitting on hoards of unread books that I no longer want to read, it makes sense for me to unhaul these books so that someone else can enjoy them.
Knowing this doesn’t make unhauling any easier.
Spending money on something really puts me into the Sunk Costs Fallacy mindset: I bought this book with my hard-earned cash; therefore, I must read the whole thing to justify this purchase.
I spent literal months looking at all the books on my floor and thinking, “Look at all the money I wasted.”
Did this motivate me to read said books?
You may be surprised to learn it did not!
Besides the pile of pandemic books I acquired, I also owned unread books that I’d been carting around for years.
(Not an exaggeration. I bought a copy of Specimen Days in 2015 and left it untouched for six years.)
I didn’t actually want to read them very much…but what if I changed my mind?
After much angst, I finally divested my collection of 80+ books.
In exchange, I gained both floor space and peace of mind.
The guilt is not gone! It’s just waiting for me to feel comfortable again!
Owning multiple copies of one book
I’ve been known to switch out a book I already own for a better-looking copy.
I only own multiples of a few books/series: Pride and Prejudice; Red, White, and Royal Blue; and The Lunar Chronicles.
Minimalists claim I don’t need multiple copies of the same book. I would argue these additional copies are absolutely necessary.
For instance…I have the paperback versions of the original Graceling Realm covers. Now that Winterkeep has been released and the rest of the covers changed to match, surely I ALSO need the new ones.
Okay, and while I mentioned owning two copies of Red, White, and Royal Blue…a hardcover collector’s edition is available for preorder.
And it has a Henry chapter.
I desperately want it, and for this I grieve.
I am trying to develop reading habits that enhance my experience and combat the guilt I feel all the time about everything.
So far for both, it’s a work in progress.
The funny thing is that I wouldn’t judge anyone else for the above habits. When it comes to myself, though, I feel like an absolute troll.
Do you feel guilt about these bookish habits or any others? Let me know in the comments when and how you struggle to turn off the critical voice in your head.