I just finished my reading challenge, my 2 year book quest, only reading books that'd be on the Lit GRE.
But the thing is, I hated it, at the end.
I wanted to ace the Lit GRE, and know everything about everything, and feel very smug about myself, so I tried to read everything I was "supposed to."
But the thing is, I don't really care about "supposed to." The perfectionism over books dried up my love for them.
I kept trying to open Trollope or Boccaccio, and not getting around to it, while the books I wanted to read gathered reproachful dust.
I started avoiding the books. Avoiding the test. Avoiding literature in general. And now, though I don't know about the test, I do know my relationship with reading is getting back on track.
Here's what I learned from my pretentious reading diet:
1) Book lists should be Suggestions, not Mandates
The moment you "have" to do something, you stop wanting to do it. Book reading should be fun, and interesting, and eye-opening. It shouldn't feel like a weight on your shoulders, or something to hide from.
2) Read 1 (or 2) books at a time
I've gotten this advice a lot, and always rolled my eyes. But you know what? It's true. I hid my "not wanting to read" under the mountainous pile of books I was supposed to. I'd check 7 or 8 out from the library, skim the first page or two, and rarely go further. Why? Because it was way too much to process! When I only had one book to focus on, I paid more attention, gave it more of a chance, and was more likely to finish.
3) Stick to 1 year max
The first year was good. The second year was tough. I think it's because I didn't allow myself a breather, didn't read the Jimi Hendrix book I got as a gift, or popular crime novel turned movie. I didn't let any fun in. And subconsciously, I think I felt it, and rebelled against it. You know what they say about all work & no play . . .
4) Read what you like!!
Pick a genre you love, or a writer, or period. Anything to make it personal. Do some research, and if Othello makes it, great! And if you hate miserable tragic endings, skip it! Google it and then walk away! You won't be able to read everything, it's impossible. So throw that pretentious perfectionism out the window, and get honest about who you are and what you like. You'll feel more authentic, and really, that's the goal.
TL;DR - Read a Balanced Diet
Start small, take it slow, and give yourself some permission to read something light once in a while. This should be for growth. It shouldn't be a punishment. Life is too short to spend it impressing someone else by reading books you don't like.
Good luck out there,
Til next time,