Reading Your Life Away

Literature lovers everywhere will agree that choosing your next read is never an easy task. There are new novels in the market daily, not to mention the long and lengthy list of classics that it seems impossible to ever get through.

In that vein, Alain de Botton recently tweeted: ‘‘Some 130 million books have been published in history; a big reader will get through 6,000 in a lifetime. Choose carefully…” If this is true, then how exactly do we choose wisely? Is it even important?

Choosing which book to read next can be almost as time-consuming as reading the book itself. Whilst in days past we may have spent hours scouring the shelves of libraries and bookstores, now we can make an informed decision at home with the help of the Internet.

These days you need not look far, for a plethora of book reviews await us online via blogs, book selling websites, podcasts and social media. There are a mountain of Facebook groups and Twitter hashtags to follow, not to mention sites like Goodreads which recommend books based on those you’ve already read. Our reach now even extends to authors themselves who we can quite easily interact with via social media. Creating a list of books to read has never been easier, just how exactly do we decide which books are worthy of our time?

I’m sure some have vigorous and elaborate systems for getting through their reading list but I am a strong believer that IT DOESN’T ACTUALLY MATTER WHAT YOU READ NEXT. Just so long as you read. Putting pressure on ourselves to read books based on our limited time on this earth is futile. If we really only get 6000 books to read in a lifetime (and that really is being rather generous), does it really matter which books they are? How many TV seasons do we get to binge-watch on Netflix in our lifetime? If we knew the answer to that question would we make different choices? I sure wouldn’t!

I can’t help but feel like Alain de Botton, with his “choose wisely” decree, is trying to turn reading into some kind of elitist sport. That in stating that it’s even possible for one book to be more worthy than another he is judging me for wasting one of my 6000 choices on ‘Twilight.’ Is he shaking his snobbish head when I reach for a romance novel to pack into my holiday luggage too? More importantly, will reading Alain de Botton’s books make me a better person?

I am sure I am not alone in my belief that reading is for pleasure and escapism as much as it is for education and enlightenment (maybe even more so). Time spent absorbed in a book, any book, is time well spent if you ask me. Even if that book doesn’t meet Alain de Botton’s high standards, I say it is not wasted. There is no such thing.

I have a long and growing list of books to read (kept safe for me on Goodreads or scrawled into my diary while I am out) that I will never actually finish because I will never stop adding to it. My list is full of contemporary literature as well as romance, science fiction, crime and what is annoyingly referred to as ‘chick-lit.’ I want to read the classics too but there are just so many books on my list that I can’t fit them all in, and at some point I gave myself permission not to. Oh, I won’t ever stop reading Jane Austen and Emily Bronte but I have decided to never actually finish reading ‘Anna Karenina’ because, really, who has time for that?

I choose my next book based on my mood and my budget, not some notion that some books are better or more worthy than others. So I say to Alain de Botton: Yes, choose carefully the books that you read. Choose books that you want to read and that will make you happy. Choose local and newly established authors. Choose authors writing about the things that no one else will write about. Choose books that are self-published and from small publishing companies. Choose books at your local bookstore and library. Make those choices because they help people in a real and meaningful way and that might actually make you a better person.











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