Sometimes it’s possible to read too much.
Not horizontally — that is, too often, or too widely — but vertically. By which I mean reading too many books at once.
If you’re as excitable and easily distracted as I am, you know the pain. You start off reading one, maybe two books — a fiction and a nonfiction, maybe — and then something catches your eye at B&N, or something goes on sale for $1.99 on Amazon … and before you know it you’ve started reading upwards of 5 books at once.
I dunno about you, but having too many books at a time actually discourages me from reading. I’d forget what I was even reading, if it weren’t for Goodreads keeping track. Limiting myself to one or two makes it easier to immerse myself, and therefore to crave any chance to sit down and read.
Unfortunately, I don’t have the self-control for only two.
That’s why I’ve begun something called the 4-book diet. Works like this: at any given moment, I’ll be reading a maximum of four books. (That sound you hear is the scrape of the WALLS CLOSING IN.)
I say four, because I’ve chosen four categories that I’d like to keep reading as a consistent habit:
- Spiritual reading
- Nonfiction (especially on writing)
- Foreign language
Usually, spiritual reading happens at a set time each day. So far that’s the only routine I’ve developed. The next routine will probably be foreign language, followed by nonfiction. As for novels, as necessary as they are to a writer, I’m keeping them strictly in the pleasure reading category. No routine. Otherwise I might lose motivation (which is precisely the opposite case with nonfiction).
So, what does that 4-book diet look like now?
Novel: Sweet as Honey by Jennifer Beckstrand
I wasn’t fully aware that Amish romance was a thing until recently. Once I noticed it, curiosity got the best of me.
Now, understand, I live in rural Pennsylvania. Every day I drive down a state route where it’s rare not to pass buggies, or at least horse poop, on the side of the road. I’ve even had dinner with an Amish family (best food ever). What drew me was not voyeurism into an exotic lifestyle, but more the question: what would an Amish romance novel look like?
Obviously, it’s “sweet” romance, not steamy. It’s cute — but so far, I’m not impressed with the characters, except when it comes to Aunt B and Dan Kanagy, who are hilarious. OK, the sister Rose is all right, too. But I’m decidedly unimpressed with how clueless the heroine Lily is about herself and both of the young men vying for her attention. Sure, I get that she has a low self-concept from years of teasing, but I still find her reactions implausible.
There’s a moment when her sister Poppy says, “Lily, you can’t see what’s right in front of your face.”
At which point I said, TRUER WORDS WERE NEVER SPOKEN.
But don’t get the impression that I don’t like the book. It may not be the genre for me, but I’m enjoying it enough to keep reading. Given my DNF statistics recently, that’s a feat.
And I really like Dan Kanagy. He’s clueless, too, but his happiness and energy make up for it.
Spiritual Reading: The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis
It’s about time I got around to reading this! I had a copy in Portuguese, but that didn’t help much.
This is a classic among classics, which is good enough reason to put it on one’s shelf … but another reason I’ve picked it up is that it was the favorite book of my patroness, St. Thérèse of Lisieux. Apparently she had very good taste.
Recent spiritual reading picks include: Jesus of Nazareth, Part Two by Pope Benedict XVI, Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton, and The Glories of Mary by St. Alphonsus Liguori. I particularly recommend the first two!
Nonfiction: Writing the Paranormal Novel, by Steven Harper
Trying to rekindle my love for writing in one of my favorite genres. So far, so good … but I’ve only read 12 pages.
(Annnnnd I have to confess that I’m cheating a bit. I’m also working through Robin Houghton’s Blogging for Writers and Aurelia D’Andrea’s Living Abroad: France … but I’m not so much reading them as using them for reference. So there!)
Foreign Language: Easy French Reader by R. de Roussy de Sales
I like the setup of this one. First you have a series of interconnected dialogues that range from beginner to around elementary-level. Then there’s a section on historical figures of France — here getting into intermediate level — followed by adapted short stories from famous French writers. Sounds good to me!
Even better, there’s a free app you can download to hear the passages read aloud.
So there’s my 4-book diet, which I’m only *slightly* cheating on.
What are you reading?