Reading Lists (and Reader Guilt)

Can I make a confession? I have been in a major reading rut lately. I was really excited to read Paris, 1970, but then I unexpectedly got stuck after just a few chapters. Maybe because I haven’t read very much M.F.K. Fisher? Oops. I’m hoping to come back to the book at some point, but right now I’m not ready for it yet. After I put Paris, 1970 back on the shelf, I started thinking about what to read next.

 

Brunch and Jane Austen

 

This time last year, I was knee-deep in essays and books and articles about Jane Austen for my bachelor’s thesis, so I was craving a return visit to Longbourne and Netherfield. But I kept telling myself that I should really read something new instead of re-reading Pride and Prejudice for the umpteenth time. I felt guilty about never (ever) finishing my self-imposed reading lists and guilty about my tendency to pick nostalgic reads over new/ exciting/ challenging books. But then I realized that I was feeling guilty about the books I choose to read. While I think it’s great to pick up a new book that will make you think, I don’t want to waste time and emotional space on reader guilt because I decided to read an old favorite. Is it really so bad to re-read an old favorite instead of half-heartedly trying to read a book I “should” be reading?

 

I can follow a reading list for a class, but for personal reading I almost always read based on my mood, which can be interesting when I pack 3+ books for a road trip (I wish I was kidding). It also makes it really hard to follow a reading list, even if I made it up. I have a tendency to put books on my list that I “should” read, instead of books I want to read. But at the same time, I don’t want to miss out on a great book because I wasn’t in the mood to pick it up.

 

Another factor that makes choosing a book tricky is the fact that I’m working on my own novel — so far I’ve been avoiding books that are from the same genre unless I’m deliberately looking for inspiration. I don’t want to distract from the story and world I’ve been trying to immerse myself in.

 

Right now I’m almost to the third “book” of Pride and Prejudice, and I’m loving that I don’t have to take notes while I read it! It makes reading about the social gaffes and misunderstandings so much more enjoyable. After I finish Pride and Prejudice I’m  hoping to finally get my hands on Good Omens. It’s been on my to-read list for a while, and since Terry Pratchett’s death I thought it was about time for me to read it.

 

What about you — do you ever have reader guilt? How do you balance reading “for fun” books with serious books? Or balance reading with writing? I’m all ears! Also maybe the most important question of all, who is your favorite character from Pride and Prejudice? I love Elizabeth and Jane Bennet, but I also have a huge soft spot for Caroline Bingley. I love how snobby and manipulative she is, and I think she’s one of Jane Austen’s best antagonists.

 

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