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Too much to read… when reading starts to feel like a chore

In my five years of blogging, writing blog posts and book reviews have only made me like reading more. But I hear a lot about bloggers who get burned out on writing reviews and even on reading itself.

This summer, I’ve struggled with this (seemingly simple) question: what do I want to read?

Like most book bloggers, at any given time I can point to piles on my bookshelf, and virtual “piles” on my Kindle. So when I finish a book, what do I pick up next?

There are people who need spontaneity or they won’t be happy. List of books, schedules, and challenges make reading feel like a chore. Usually I’m not one of those people.  I consider myself someone who needs help deciding among a huge array of options. I need to narrow my choices, so TBR lists and reading challenges help me. I have other “rules” that I follow, like not reading too much of any one genre, and not reading books in the same series one after the other.

My reading choices are generally driven by the following:

  • What I already own.
  • ARCs and Review Requests (should be read and reviewed by date of publication).
  • Books that come in on my library wait list (I only have 21 days before they go back).
  • Books for challenges, readalongs, or my spring/summer/fall TBR list.
  • Favorite authors or award winners.

After all that, there’s the occasional impulse read based on recommendations from other bloggers or NYT Book Reviews. For example, right now I really want to read The Beautiful Bureaucrat and The Watchmaker of Filigree Street. But umm, I already have a ton of books I feel I “need” to read. Right now, I have three books from NetGalley and two books from the library that have to be read by a certain date. I need to read something translated for my library’s Summer Reading Bingo. And I volunteered for The House of the Spirits read along but was surprised to find I’d have to locate a paper copy of the book because it doesn’t exist in Kindle form.

Therein lies the problem. Why do I “need” to read anything? Is it a good thing to have all of these books pulling me in different directions? Shouldn’t I just read for enjoyment, and enjoy what I read?

Lately I feel like I’m giving myself assignments rather than reading for fun. It’s summer and I’m feeling restless. I gave up on two books last month and I don’t want to feel guilty about that. But I also don’t want to immerse myself in semi-stupid series books when I have a Margaret Atwood and a Kazuo Ishiguro on my “to read” list.

I’m also going on vacation. For me, vacation is a time for lots of reading, and it doesn’t need to be light reading as long as it’s good. No “beach reads” for me. On my Kindle I’ve got Atwood, Ishiguro, David Mitchell, and Isabel Allende. I’ve got Cheryl Strayed’s book of advice columns and Felicia Day’s new memoir. I’ve got Ernest Cline’s Armada and the second book in Hugh Howey’s series.

But then I hear how great The Beautiful Bureaucrat is, and I’m torn. Is it okay to pick up just one more book? Blogging hasn’t taken away any of my enjoyment of reading, but it’s certainly cut into my ability to choose spontaneously, just because I want to read something.

Vacation is a time to read what you want to read. I just wish it was easier to figure out what that is.

So, book blogger, how do you choose what you read?  Do you ever get overwhelmed, and how do you keep reading fun?

This post is part of the Book Blogger Discussion Challenge sponsored by Feed Your Fiction Addiction.

14 thoughts on “Too much to read… when reading starts to feel like a chore

  1. I don’t usually feel bogged down with reading but I do right now for some of the reasons you mentioned – I have two ARCs, a couple library books, some challenge reads, and a few man booker long list books to review. Right now I’m actively reading 5 books at the same time. I guess I mostly created the problem for myself because we have a schedule for blog posts so some books are scheduled ahead of time. For example, Rushdie will be our featured author this month so I’m trying to finish up Satanic Verses. And, we want to make predictions for the Booker shortlist so we’re trying to read a bunch of them by sept. Luckily, they are all books I want to read so it feels a little less like a chore.

    I wouldn’t mind a little more spontaneity in selecting my books but there are times when the blog schedule doesn’t allow for it. Though I feel like we never really select books that we don’t want to read. I’ll be curious what other strategies people use

  2. I tend to ask for books from publicists instead of accepting them, which helps because I pick books that I want to read, but I totally sympathize with your “oh I HAVE to read these” feeling. If it helps, the Cheryl Strayed book was amazing. I read it and cried and giggled and it felt completely cathartic by the end.

  3. I try my best not to get overwhelmed. Sometimes I feel it creeping up on me because when you are a part of a community (book blogging community say), you feel the need to keep up with it. I try to ignore that though I’m not always successful. I try not to limit myself to lists or anything. If I do make a list, I allow myself to go off it if I want to. So when it comes to what I read next, what ever catches my eye and holds my attention is what I go for. That way it doesn’t feel like it’s something I have to do.

  4. I am curious to read more responses to this post. I love to read AND write; and I have been blogging for less than a year. I require some spontaneous reading but even so there is always an inner voice asking “are you going to write about this one?” Also, giving myself permission to read some books slowly while tempering my reading “greed” and developing a blogging schedule is quite….an….adventure?

  5. I was feeling overwhelmed last month with what I “had” to read and I was trying to read/review ahead for NetGalley to get the stupid statistics up. I’ve got books coming out in Dec & Jan which are dragging me down. I’ve decided to look at my months overall and be sure to read at least 1 book a week for no reason than that I want to.

  6. I’m not very good at planning blog posts or my reading list in advance – everything has always changed by the end of the week so I don’t really plan long-term! Generally, I read during the week when I’m commuting to work and then I sort out my blog stuff at weekends which helps me manage my time as I know I can usually read about 70 pages during a return journey to work. I’m quite careful with NetGalley and only request things I really really want to read so it’s usually library books which stop me from getting through my own TBR pile.

  7. I was getting stressed too last year, feeling constantly behind with various challenges and reading commitments. So come January which is when lots of new challenges started I decided I would have to forgo them no matter how interesting they seemed. I still have my own projects but they don’t have urgent timelines so I don’t feel any longer I am reading to a schedule.

  8. I think the constant onslaught of book recommendations is simultaneously the best and worst thing about blogging. It’s great to “discover” so many exciting-sounding books, but it also creates so much pressure to read everything! If you’re too torn by all of these different books that are being recommended, maybe take a step back from social media or review reading? That usually helps me.

  9. Great discussion! I don’t know why I bother creating a reading plan at the start of every year because I can never stick to it. I try not to take on new books, but I can’t say no. Now I try to limit the number of ARCs I accept and instead of immediately putting books on hold at the library after reading blogger reviews, I put them on my wish list.

  10. I’ve been struggling with this a bit myself because I’ve been so bogged down by books I HAVE to read that I don’t feel like I am enjoying myself anymore. This is mostly my own fault because I have a hard time saying, “no” when an author asks me to review a book. I’m trying to get better about it. I’m aware that my TBR is totally out of control, even though I’m uber-scheduled. I’m so far behind on reading books for which I’ve promised reviews. It’s one thing to put it on the schedule; it’s another to get it done in time. To give myself time to get caught up, I posted that I am not accepting any more requests from indie authors, mainly because 99% of review requests are from them, not because I’m picking on indie authors. I thought about putting that I’m not accepting review requests at all, but I don’t want to miss a chance if a favorite author wanted me to review his or her book.

    I have gotten a lot better with Netgalley and Edelweiss. It’s just a matter of getting through all the ones from when I wasn’t so selective.

    I don’t pay much attention to book recommendations because I already have such a huge TBR. It would be nice to read the books I want to read, but I can’t do that until I fulfill the commitments I have already made.

  11. Pingback: My Month in Reading: August Wrap-Up | The Book Stop

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