the literary monogamist

life is too short not to read good books.

I read that quote somewhere, a long time ago, and in all this time, it has bugged me. The way a rock stuck under my foot when I'm wearing my Birkenstocks would bug me. Birks are a prison for tiny pebbles.

The problem with the quote is that I am one of those people who feels compelled to finish every book. Even when I don't particularly care for the book(s) I'm reading. Reading, which is something I've loved for just about as far back as I can remember, can sometimes resemble a chore. I strap a nice heaping 'should' onto something I'd rather enjoy, and my attitude about it changes.

Does this sound familiar? If you've been reading here a while, it might. About three years ago, I was mired in some pretty nasty depression and anxiety (too much debt, impending unemployment, and an odd but lastimg lapse into wedding PTSD, because it takes a special kind of person to be traumatized by weddings and I am that kind of person). I'd been knitting, but not necessarily in a good way. I had too many projects going, which led to some ridiculous but very real pent-up anxiety and mental self-flagellation. I know. About knitting. Ridiculous, yes. So I decided to go firmly against the knitting grain and become a monogamous knitter.

The benefit to having more than one craft project going at any one time is that when something new catches your attention, you can work on that for a while, until you feel like coming back to one of your unfinished projects. You have options, and the only downside is that maybe your projects won't get finished as quickly as they would be if they were the recipient of sole focus. But you don't usually have to start all over when you're returning to a half-knitted scarf.

Books are a little different - for me at least. I don't know about you, but I have a hard time holding more than one story or argument in my mind, and there's always an expiration date. This was true even before the head injury, but it's more true now. Back before I cricked my neck and swole my brainz, I could read more than one book as long as the books were different genres. Nowadays, if I don't finish a book in two weeks there's a good chance I'll be completely lost by the end, having already forgotten the beginning. If I'm going to read, I need to read one book at a time.

I'm good with this one-at-a-time system. I cook one meal at a time, I have one conversation at a time, I knit one project at a time, I read one book at a time, and most days I don't even remember to consider multitasking. This way is simple. It works for me. That's what is most important, right? It works for me, at this point in time, with my current capabilities.

Accepting this is sometimes difficult. I want to be one of those people who can remember multiple stories at a time. The truth, though, is that I'm doing well if I can remember the first names of the 8-or-so ladies who get together Wednesday mornings for knitting group at the church. And so now, five years later, I am still choosing to embrace the 'new' me and this 'new' reality.

To make it easier on myself, I need to let go of the self-imposed rule that every book I start must be finished. Because life really is too short to slog through books just for the sake of slogging through them. And when my reading capacity is as limited as it is, I need to do some favors for myself.

What about you - do you feel like you have to finish every book you start? Do you have multiple books going at a time? What's the best book you've read recently?

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