Summer Reading Update (or How I Learned to Renegotiate My Commitments to Books)

Photo courtesy of phantomswife

Summer has long since come and gone and I wanted to write a quick update on my summer reading list and let you know how I did.

I started off pretty close to my list, knocking out the first four books with relative ease. I thoroughly enjoyed all four, especially Stacy Schiff’s great retelling of Cleopatra’s life. It reminded me of Erik Larsons’ books, all of which I thoroughly enjoy. Freedom was also extremely enjoyable with its towering and heady themes. Not an easy read, but a rewarding one doubt. In between those two I caught Tina Fey’s Bossypants, which was a perfect book to read after Freedom. As a new parent, I found it very timely if not utterly hilarious. It prompted a number of laugh out loud moments. Casino Royale too was enjoyable for different reasons of course. I was a bit turned off by the misogyny despite my love of the movies.

After this it was tough to find another book to latch on to. I started Room by Emma Donahue and found the story interesting, but ultimately hit the pause button because the narrator shift was too dramatic. Same for In the Garden of the Beasts by Erik Larson, which I also found fascinating but too dark for my interest at the time. Both are ones I’d love to come back to and do plan on at some point including the others on my list.

Here is where I found myself renegotiating my commitment to the list and finding other books instead to finish. This is the beauty of the 50 page rule, which I’ve adhered to ever since I read Steve Leveen’s essential book for readers, The Little Guide to Your Well-Read Life. In the past, I would have held steadfast to list, and a great one it was, and would therefore have become quickly disinterested in reading out of the pressure to keep my commitment. Instead, by giving myself the freedom to quit on books (or pause them as I like to say), I got into other books I wouldn’t have normally gotten started.

This is also where the beauty of a reading management tool like Shelfari comes in too. By keeping a current and up to date list of reading candidates, I can easily toggle between books and not rely on the books themselves as reminders for what to read. I highly recommend using a site like this to manage your list of candidates. You can see my shelf online and can even view the books I started and plan to finish someday neatly organized and managed within Shelfari.

Instead of the other books on the list, I completed State of Wonder by Anne Patchett, The Long Run by Matt Long, and The Judgement of Paris by Ross King; all of which I thoroughly enjoyed. I didn’t quite make it to 10, but 7 ain’t bad either, especially for a kid who dreaded summer reading growing up.

I’d love to hear your summer reading stories and strategies in the comments below and whether or not you’ve found any value in hitting the pause button on books.

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