Reading fatigue. No, I’m not talking about reading and falling asleep, nor am I talking about eye strain, carpal tunnel from holding the book, or bed sores from reading in bed too long. I’m talking about being overwhelmed and a little bit tired of reading. Blasphemous, I know, but stick with me.
If you had asked me years ago if I would ever tire of reading, I would have laughed in your face. Well, that’s if I bothered lifting my face out of the book I was reading. But now? I have a hard time keeping the reading train on track. There are so many other things that are more appealing these days, or at least less overwhelming.
I’ve given it some thought and I’ve decided the problem stems from one main issue: An overwhelming amount of choice.
This problem of too much choice is hilarious to me. Growing up, our tiny library didn’t have much to choose from so you took what you could get. When I got to college, my brain nearly exploded at the size of the university library. Fortunately, I had too much school work to do to ever get overwhelmed with choices for leisure reading. Back then I would have killed for a few extra hours in the day to take advantage of that library.
But now? Millions of books are right at my fingertips. Even if the physical library doesn’t have anything good on a given day, their Overdrive account will. And let’s not talk about all the free books on Amazon, the ARC’s I get from other authors, and my personal unread library. My e-reader is full to overflowing. (I had to buy a memory card to expand it, and now that’s full, as well.) My TBR pile is always about to topple over.
There’s so much choice that when I do have time to read, I’m like a squirrel caught in traffic. There are so many possible paths, so many ways to go, it’s easier to just lie down in the road and say, “Forget it.” While reading fatigue isn’t fatal to me as failure to choose is for that poor squirrel, it’s still problematic. Instead of settling on something and reading it, too often I walk away and work on a puzzle, build something out of Lego, or play a board game. While these are all fine hobbies, I miss reading sometimes.
In thinking about it, what I really miss is the excitement of coming home from the library or B Dalton (if you don’t know what this is, you’re not as old as I am) with a few books and knowing that was it until the next library trip or birthday. Those choices had to count and they had to last. And I knew that all of those books would be read, it was only a matter of in what order. Now there are books everywhere and it’s no longer a matter of simply choosing which order to read them in. It’s become more of, “Which ones of these thousands do I want to make sure I get to before I die?” That’s a daunting proposition. When faced with that kind of choice, I freeze up, unable to decide at all.
And the stress of having a huge backlog of books is a real thing. There’s a feeling of, “Why did I download this, or borrow it, if ‘m not going to read it?” So I feel like I should read it, but then reading feels like a chore, just one more item on my to do list, and I don’t want to. It’s a vicious circle that means I never read anything. Plus, it kills the joy.
So what’s the answer? The first helpful thing I’ve done is to purge my e-reader of everything but what I’m reading right now. There are only three books on it. That solves at least some of the choice problem. If I want to read something else, I have to go to my computer, boot up Calibre, and transfer the new book to the device. That’s a pain so it cuts down on the endless grazing and no reading I’ve been doing. Or the, “Turn on the device, freak out at the choices, turn it off and watch TV,” problem.
The other thing I did is to cancel a lot of my holds at the library. Those books will be there later, when/if I’m ready for them. I kept the ones I really want to read and jettisoned the like to read’s. Random library browsing has also been curtailed. I can put the stuff I really want on hold from home and run in and pick it up, eliminating the temptations of so-so books I see on the shelves.
I also opted not to go to the book sale this year, figuring it was safer to stay away. I’m not in the market for anything specific, so anything purchased would just be more to deal with. (I did, however, make a monetary donation to the library to make myself feel better. I’m not totally ignoring their fundraising needs.)
Finally, I’m working on getting better at prioritizing my reading. Books that continue a beloved series get first priority. Then the new hotness that I really want to read. Everything else comes after, including re-reads, ARC’s, books that I feel like I “should” read to keep up with industry trends, freebies that looked interesting but not must-read, and so on. This guides my choices and directs me toward the books that mater most.
My reading time (as well as my time on this planet) is limited. I don’t want to waste it by not reading anymore. And it’s stupid that a wealth of choice is ruining my hobby. That’s my fault, though, for not recognizing the problem sooner and dealing with it. If you can never decide on what to read so you simply read nothing, then I hope my experience helps you.