by James Wallace Harris, 3/12/23
I love reading best when I’m reading a book that I hate to stop reading and always want to get back to when I’m not reading it. Back in December, I was obsessed with reading Elizabeth Strout’s books. I read seven of her nine novels, practically one right after another. That was delightful. I was in reading heaven.
Right now my reading is terribly unfocused. I can’t stick with any book for long. Pictured on this page are all the books I’m currently reading — at least they are the ones that are currently up on my Kindle, Audible, Scribd, and Libby apps, and the books I see lying around. There’s probably more lying next to chairs, or under magazines.
Some of the books I’m reading are because I’m in an online book club for nonfiction books (Come Back in September, Song of the Cell). Or books related to what we read (Jena 1800, Sleepless Nights, The Romantic Revolution).
Others are because I’m in a Facebook group that reads anthologies (The Best of Nancy Kress, Beyond Armageddon, 21st Century Science Fiction). Others are because I’m interested in a particular subject, or they were recommended by a friend (The Good Lord Bird). (It’s great.)
I’m reading All Creatures Great and Small by James Harriot because Susan and I are watching the TV show of the same title. We finished the new series and are into the third season of the old series.
I’m reading Where The Wasteland Ends because I got interested in Romanticism in my online book club. I’m reading Miss Buncle Married because I loved Miss Buncle’s Book. I’m reading Neanderthals and The Great SF Stories 20 because I just love reading science fiction short stories.
I’m reading The Murder of the U.S.A. because I’m writing about the history of science fiction stories that deal with surviving a nuclear war, and it’s an early example of the subject. I’m reading Television’s Greatest Year: 1954 because I found it in a used bookstore and it looked interesting and is interesting. I’m reading Dangerous Visions and New Worlds because I like reading and writing about the history of science fiction. I’m reading How Hight We Go In The Dark because I try to keep up with current science fiction and it was considered one of the best SF novels last year.
I hope this illustrates how scattered my reading and thinking are at the moment. I’d much rather be focused on one subject and one book. When I was growing up and for many years of my working life, I mostly read one book at a time. I miss that simplicity, that focus.
When I joined Audible in 2002 I was on the 2 audiobooks a month plan, and I’d finish one audiobook and carefully study for days how I would use my second credit. Each book was special.
Then Audible started having sales, and now I have hundreds of audiobooks in my TBL to pile. And with all the Kindle books on sale, and all the wonderful buys I find at the Friends of the Library bookstore, I have a couple thousand books on my TBR pile. Life was simpler when I could only afford to buy one book at a time. I just can’t resist a book I think I want to read if it’s priced very low. And I subscribe to Scribd, Kindle Unlimited, and Apple News+ which provide access to hundreds of magazines and countless books and audiobooks. I have too much of a good thing. Less might be a whole lot more.
The book covers shown on this page are only the books I’m trying to read this week. It doesn’t include the books I’m buying or the books I recently gave up trying to read or finished.
I think between all the zillions of albums I can listen to on Spotify, all the zillions of movies and TV shows I can stream, and all the zillions of books, audiobooks, and magazines I could read my mind is running in seven directions at once trying to consume everything. It’s wearing me out.
I hanker for a simpler reading, listening, and watching life. One that is more focused. I think it’s time to cancel some subscriptions and give up buying bargains. I don’t know if I can ever get back to reading just one book at a time, but it should get it down too much less than 21 at a time.
[There is a certain synergy between this essay and the one I just wrote for my science fiction blog, “10 Reasons How I’m Reevaluating My Interest in Science Fiction.”)
6 thoughts on “Unfocused Reading”
I enjoy following your reading adventures, Jim! My reading has always been somewhat unfocused, all the more so since I especially love short stories, which lend themselves well to dipping-into rather than read-from-start-to-finish habits–a story by Bradbury here, Hawthorne there, etc. I’ve never been one of those readers who works their way through a given writer, then moves onto another one, etc.
Hi James! I completely agree with you about the joy of getting lost in a book that you just can’t put down. It’s such a wonderful feeling to be so absorbed in a story that you forget about everything else around you. However, I understand what you mean about having trouble sticking with a book for long periods of time. I’ve definitely been in that situation before, where I have multiple books started but can’t seem to fully commit to any of them.
I’m curious, do you think that having so many options at our fingertips (through kindles, audiobooks, etc.) makes it harder for us to focus on one book at a time? It’s almost like we have too much choice, and the grass always seems greener on the other side. I’ve definitely fallen into the trap of starting a new book because it seems more exciting, even though I was enjoying the one I was already reading.
Additionally, I’m interested in hearing more about the online
In short, life’s a banquet these days.
True, but I need to go on a diet.
I read one book at a time. Looking at the wonderful covers you’ve displayed in this post, there’s plenty there I would dive into. But, I under mood completely. I too need to be in the Right Mood for certain books. When in doubt, I always turn to a P.G. Wodehouse book. Never fails!
Great to see someone who loves reading so much!