An unexpected windfall and an unintended experiment in reading habits, has led me to the real reason I read the way I do. So many fancy words. The reality is that I tried something different based on some new input and discovered something…all by accident. I do better in anything when I allow myself to create my own path.

This is the kind of reading habits I love to see!
Photo by John Michael Thomson on Unsplash

Late last year, a friend from my homeschooling days messaged me that she was moving out of state. She had a large library of books that she needed to re-home and she didn’t have time to take care of it properly, so she called me to see if I wanted to take charge of it.

Me. The honor of being a personal library’s foster mom. Wow. …faints dead away…

Yes, I am aware that not everyone loves books as I do. And I’m glad that is the case because I feel special. These books need me!

My reading habits are…intense. I know that. I do love books, but I’m not a fanatic. I’m aware that they are simply bound pieces of paper with writing on them. I do not worship them for their form but for the information they contain. The big thrill came from the idea that someone out there knew me well enough that they thought of me when they had to get help re-distributing books. That made my heart happy. I felt seen and appreciated for who I am at my core.

That day I took home an entire pick-up truck full of books and the following week, she and another friend returned with another truck and unloaded those onto my front porch as well. I spent a whole day just taking them out and putting them into piles. And I dream of doing it again, more thoroughly, very soon.

I could have spent an entire week going through those books. Organizing things is another passion of mine that can consume me and leave no room for more mundane things like eating and housework. Don’t get me started on a messy room or a Lego pile.

Out of that first sort through the boxes, I set aside about 60 books that I wanted to keep for myself. I do not feel selfish about this. There were many more books left. Then I called a few local book reading friends and they combed through them all once again…and I grabbed up a few more.

My only disappointment was today’s homeschool community in my neighborhood. Fifteen years ago, if I had posted that I had free books on my porch, at least twenty families would have swarmed my house within the week, and nothing could have stopped them. They all would have wanted to get there while the getting was good. This time no one came. I’m trying to blame it on my rural location, but I think it’s something else, and it ain’t fear of a virus. But I digress.

The next step was to find homes for the rest of them and that is an ongoing project. There must be people with wild reading habits like mine, right? Lucky for me, my local community center (of which I am the Secretary, so I have some pull there) was willing to house them for the time being. We plan on putting together a big sale to benefit the center, keeping some for our small library, and then donating the rest to the used bookstore in town. But…covid…so it’s been slow go getting that started.

Guess what? That’s the background to what I really wanted to talk about.

As I combed through those books, piling them up by genre, I carefully picked out some to add to my TBR pile. I did not pick them willy-nilly. I tried to stick to books by authors I had already read, or titles I had on my wish list. My friend and I have similar passions in the book department, so many of her titles were classics, history, and philosophy that I was already interested in reading. My final tally was 74 books, about 14 more books than I typically read in a year. I was a very happy reader.

That is until I noticed something. My reading habits have changed, and not for the better.

I’m five months into this TBR pile and I’m not happy. I keep going to it and struggling to pick a book. And when I do, I’m not feeling inspired by the words. I told my son yesterday that I feel like I’m following someone else’s roadmap of sites to see, a prescribed list. I don’t like it.

Don’t get me wrong. The books are great. There have been a couple that I loved, but in general I have felt that something was missing, and I think I figured out what that is.

The next few books in line on my TBR shelf have always been connected to what I’m already reading or thinking about. In books, articles, and podcasts, I find new authors, new titles, new subjects that I’m eager to dive into, and I add those to my wish list on Thriftbooks as I find them, but I don’t buy them yet. They are there as a reminder of what I have been studying.

I keep my TBR pile to one small shelf, usually consisting of about 5 to 10 books, that I buy from my ever-developing wish list. Every book in my house that is not on that shelf is a book I have already read. Inside the cover is my name and the date that I read it, along with notes in pencil throughout. I have a connection to each one and each one is connected to the next.

The past five months of reading look more like prescribed college reading list, than my own personal learning journey. It doesn’t feel good, and I don’t think I’m learning as much as I have in the past.

What should I do?

Well, I think I’m going to go back to my old reading habits, selecting books that are mentioned in the books I’m currently reading, following the rabbit trails. The books that I have from the wonderful day, I’m going to put on a special shelf (when I get two new bookcases…soon…has to happen) and keep them for when I’m called to read them. They are great books, and they may be mentioned in something else, and I’ll be led to them again, organically, the way God intended. There are also times when I do reach a dead end and need to pick a book at random.

What’s the takeaway here?

Book selection is a personal journey, and no two paths are exactly the same. My friend and I have similar tastes in books. We were both homeschoolers in a similar style. Our map may be the same, with the same roads and sites to see, but the order and pace in which we want to see them is very different.

I was so excited to get those books and spend a whole year reading for free, but it had a cost after all. Reading someone else’s books has made me start to lose interest in reading all together. I can’t have that. So, I’m back to hearing my own drum and dancing to my own tunes, as erratic as that may be.