Reading Methods

Like most readers I’ve got a TBR list a mile long but I’ve recently noticed something about my reading methods that is slightly disturbing; I have an ‘ordered’ ‘To-read’ shelf on GoodReads and I’ve noticed that the top five books, the ones that I am supposedly most eager to read, has stayed static for weeks, months maybe. Now, I really want to read these books but others come to my attention such as a book I spot in a library/bookshop or a Book Group decides to read something I also want to read which results in this interloper leapfrogging my TBR list and into pole position. For example Lampedusa’s The Leopard has been sitting in the top five for ages.

My physical TBR pile. I've added a few since the photo was taken. Of course I also have an e-TBR pile and a 'library-TBR' pile and a 'To Buy' pile and and...

My physical TBR pile. I’ve added a few since the photo was taken. Of course I also have an e-TBR pile and a ‘library-TBR’ pile and a ‘To Buy’ pile and and…

Now, last year I read Proust’s In Search of Lost Time with a GoodReads group and I followed a schedule quite strictly, only deviating from the schedule occasionally. Before I started I wondered if I would be able to keep to such a tight reading regime, but I did, and I actually quite liked it. So, I’ve been wondering lately whether there is any sense in devising a reading plan for a period, say six months, and keeping to it; I mean I would have to include a bit of ‘wriggle room’ but it would be a schedule nonetheless.

My immediate objection to this approach was that I wouldn’t be able to read something if I just wasn’t in the mood for it; after all if I felt like reading some dry-as-dust non-fiction (and sometimes I do) then it would be no good having P.G. Wodehouse scheduled. But, it would surely be easy to plan around this by having, say, two quite different books scheduled to be read at the same time so that I could oscillate between them as the daily mood required. The most difficult thing would be saying ‘no’ to the new enticing book that comes along to distract me from the Grand Plan.

So, I’m interested to know how others plan their reading; do you devise a schedule as I’m suggesting here or do you just decide from book to book? Or is it more like my current method, consisting of a vague intention to read specific books? If you do have a schedule how easy is it to keep to it? And does reading to a tight schedule become boring? This would probably be my greatest concern, that reading to a strict plan would soon become a chore.

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10 responses to “Reading Methods

  1. kaggsysbookishramblings

    I’ve completely given up any attempt at scheduling – it just fails miserably for me, and if I’m not in the mood for a book I can’t read it. So I just go completely by whim, which is probably why my TBR is in such a state… Good luck! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Jonathan

      I must admit the ‘read by whim’ approach is good and is more or less what I use at the moment. I must admit that if I’m not in the mood for reading a certain type of book then I know I just wouldn’t read it – schedule or no schedule.

      BTW Today’s new addition to physical TBR pile is the Chekhov collection In the Twilight.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. LOL I have tried a variety of different strategies, but none of them work because I have interlopers too. I could probably have re-read Proust in the time I’ve spent designing and redesigning reading plans, and now I’ve given up doing them. Except for Zola. That’s different. Though I do have to keep changing the dates…
    Oh yes, I forgot, I also have a reading plan for the books the publishers send me. Strictly in order of receipt if I requested it, subject to unsolicited interlopers that look interesting. Or famous. Or have a nice cover.
    *frown* There is a master plan, which prioritises books by whether or not I can fit them on their proper shelf. At the moment the Ms and the Ss are in overflow, so I should be reading some of them so that I can stop the books falling on the floor. But the Ks which are really quite tidy have been thrusting themselves at me, they’re very pushy those Ks, all those Kadares and Thomas Keneallys.
    *guilt-stricken wince* There’s also a mini plan to read stuff I agreed to do for Stu from Winston’s Dad, but I keep getting sidetracked because I can’t always read challenging stuff at bedtime and need something more relaxing. Which then seduces me away from the main game.
    But what is the main game, eh? If I were going to treat this problem seriously, I would have to analyse *why* a particular book is elevated to pole position and then ignored in favour of other things. I have The Leopard too, for instance, and it’s right up there with books I ought to read because other readers reference it and I want to enjoy what they’ve enjoyed (or valued enough to brag about it). But the book has never actually jumped off the shelf with cries of ‘Read me! Read me now!’ Other books do it all the time, they do it at the library, they do it in the bookshop and they do it late at night when I’m choosing what to read next. My guess is that The Leopard will have to wait until I decide that a ‘worthy’ read is what my brain desires, and truth be told there are others in the Worthy Pile ahead of it. I like Worthy Books, I really do, and from the reviews on my blog (see 1001 Books category) you can see that I read them all the time – but I have to be in the mood. My Worthy Books Mood is capricious, just as …
    Oh yes, I’ve just remembered, I also have a Read The Bookers Plan, and a Read the Miles Franklin Winners Plan, and a Read the Nobels Plan. (BTW have you *seen* my TBR? This is what it looked like in 2013 http://anzlitlovers.com/top-tens/ but it’s worse now).
    I think that at heart I am a frivolous reader. I like reading because I like reading. And you lot, you, my favourite bloggers who fill my reading life with more and more recommendations for fantastic books to read, bring one interloper after another into my frivolous reading life and my groaning shelves because I read (and buy) on impulse. I can’t help it, I am an INTP (see Myers-Briggs) and we INTPs love to design things but not actually build them. And that includes reading lists.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Jonathan

    Ha! Ha! Methinks I struck a nerve.:-) Go on, surely you can just squeeze ‘The Leopard’ in to your reading schedule! It’s just a thin little book! 🙂

    Even my Zola ‘RM plan’ was haphazard and desultory. I just started reading a few of his books as I recalled really liking the ones I’d read before and then I just kept picking up another. It wasn’t actually until I was on about the tenth one that I seriously thought about reading the whole RM series. Even then it was out of order and just when I felt like it.

    I started thinking about this because I originally planned to read the Carter bio of Proust in January and I had the idea of starting Zola’s Three Cities about April time – for some reason that seemed like a good time to start it. But here I am and I still haven’t even started the Proust bio. Grrrr!

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    • Jonathan

      I like the gallery pics. I have to ‘quieten down’ the screaming books as well, that’s why I keep most of them in a cupboard rather than on shelves. I also find that my ebook TBR doesn’t attract so much attention either.

      BTW I find it difficult getting interested with all these 1001 Books to Read type of things. I mean I like looking at them to see if there’s anything interesting but I don’t like the idea of reading books just because they’re considered ‘worthy’ or they’ve won a prize or something. I do it sometimes (I recently read my first Jane Austen – S&S – and was underwhelmed) and usually regret it.

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      • Ah, now I have had the opposite experience with 1001 Books: I’ve liked almost everything I’ve read. Having said that, I have *natch* ignored anything that doesn’t appeal, with two regrettable exceptions, Swift’s Tale of a Tub and Melville’s Moby Dick. C’est la vie, and at least I can privately raise an eyebrow when people say how much they loved them. (Really? You really read it and liked it?? Hmmm.)
        Tell you what, I’ll read The Leopard if you will. This will inspire us both. But not yet, I promised Stu I would read five translations from previous IFFP winners for his IFFP 25 year anniversary project and I have only done one, well, two, if you count half reading the counterfeit copy of The Sorrow of War because I did sort of review what I’d read so far until all the pages went missing.
        How does June sound? That gives us both time to clear the decks and *commit*.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. No! Wait! I forgot, I’m supposed to be overseas in June! (Remember, we’re going to meet up in London). Let’s make it July.

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    • Jonathan

      Yes, I remember Lisa. And July sounds good for The Leopard. I do want to read it.

      I know (or I think I know) what you mean with Moby Dick. A lot of people will claim that it’s a classic etc. But really!? I stuck with it but felt like abandoning it many times (I actually preferred all the info about whaling than the ‘fiction’). When people who barely read any books claim that it’s a classic then I do wonder if is based on their own experience or whether they’re just saying what they think they should be saying. This is also my experience with Shakespeare; I can’t distinguish those who genuinely like his work and those who just say they do because they think they should. But I have to weigh this against the fact that I may just not be ‘getting it’ for some reason; I’m not totally unreasonable, my opinions of books have changed when others have explained things to me that I’ve missed.

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      • Yes, and my opinions of books has changed with re-reading in later years. Some books I loved I now find unsatisfying, and I love some others I didn’t understand and therefore with all the arrogance of youth dismissed as unreadable.
        Me, I like *some* Shakespeare. *surprise, surprise* I like the ones I’ve seen performed and not the ones I haven’t.

        Liked by 1 person

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