Reading is Hard

The best laid plans, right? I wrote so much about the Read Harder Challenge in an effort to fully commit to it. Then I got 30 pages into one romance novel and immediately dropped it for the latest of Geneveive Cogman’s Invisible Library series. Which was great, by the way.

Cover for Genevieve Cogman's The Lost Plot features two wolves in the  upper left and right corners, a flapper girl in 1920s dress in the bottom left corner, and a man in a zoot suit in the bottom right corner. Reads "A covert mission; A royal demand; And a race against time" above the title.

Here’s the thing: I love picking up books randomly at the library and trying new things, but there are definitely “genres” that I gravitate toward, even when I’m just browsing. My ill-defined genres of choice are as follows:

  • anything spooky;
  • intergenerational sagas with lots of drama (I have never read The Thorn Birds, but I bet I would like it);
  • books featuring a Strong Female Lead;
  • anything weird.

In the past six years, as I was recovering from an English degree, I’ve been trying to discover what I actually like to read — rather than what I had to read for my degree. (To be fair, I really enjoyed a lot of the reading I did for my degree.) Sometimes, though, I feel like I’ve boxed myself into a very narrow range of books, and I don’t have a lot of incentive to step outside those bounds. Now that I’m exploring the world of readers’ advisory as part of my MLIS degree, I feel the need to push myself. But it’s a struggle! Maybe I need to do more homework to see what books within a particular drama might resonate with me more, or maybe I need to throw out my “30 page rule”: if I don’t love it within ~30 pages, I’ll put it down and maybe come back to it later.

My philosophy for pleasure reading has always been: life is short, and there are LOTS of books to read. Why waste time on a book you’re not dying to finish? I am both wary of losing the joy in reading by forcing myself to read things I’m just not that into; AND of missing out on great books because they’re not spooky/weird/feminist enough.

How do you commit to reading outside of your comfort zone? What habits help you commit to reading books you’re lukewarm about? How do you find joy in those books?

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