Why I quit making reading lists — and why I’m back

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I didn’t keep track of a single book I read in 2018.

Given how immersed I was in cataloging everything I read up until my kids arrived, that felt strange. Even after I found myself with little energy and less desire to keep up with full-blown reviews, I was updating Goodreads with the audiobooks I’d listened to, at least.

But for 2018? Cold turkey. I was tired. Reading had become less a pleasurable pursuit than a strange struggle to “keep up,” both in the book blogging world and outside it. I felt like I’d created something with write meg! and I needed to crank out content to appease … someone.

Publishers? Readers? Myself?

So I stopped. If it doesn’t give you joy, why do it? And, to be honest, it was all I could do to keep my eyes open until 9 p.m. Once the kids were in bed, I was right behind them. My job is very busy. The house is always a mess. So many responsibilities tug at me day in and day out, and I needed to loosen the hold of those that I could.

Here’s the thing, though: being a reader is part of my identity. I don’t feel like myself without my books. Novels are a vacation. A trip from reality. A chance to escape, to punch out, to be “someone else” for a while.

Without books, I’m … me. Exhausted mom of two.

I wanted to find my way back to reading … but without the self-imposed pressure I’d come to put on myself as a blogger and reviewer. There had to be a better way.

So I rediscovered books in 2018 — just for myself. The kids were sleeping more. Our household was less disrupted. I returned to novels like reconnecting with a best friend — just without the requirement that I evaluate every single one. I was tired of my obsession with counting everything.

Life was stressful enough. I just wanted to read.

So I did. But I didn’t review or catalog. I didn’t set reading goals, nor did I keep a running list of what I’d purchased or finished or borrowed.

2018 became the year of the lost book.

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Turns out … well, I miss my lists.

I am lists. Lists are me.

When I don’t have them? There’s … nothing. A total blank where my favorite reads from 2018 should be.

Did I not read anything compelling last year? Nothing memorable, influential, worthwhile? This can’t be true, especially knowing I give most books the 10-page test — if it doesn’t hold my attention after 10 pages, I quit.

Yet without my trusty spreadsheets and up-to-date Goodreads account, I struggle to think of a single title I loved in the last 12 months.

That just won’t do.

So I’m back. Last week I flipped on the lights of my dormant Goodreads account, shaking the dust from every surface. I’ve finished three audio books since January 1, and absolutely loved Katherine Center’s How to Walk Away. I’m thick in the middle of Michelle Obama’s Becoming and love it so much, I don’t want it to end.

And, of course, there’s my kids’ bedtime reading. The rhyming undercurrents of my daily life.

For Hadley, it’s Five Little Pumpkins. For Oliver, Where Do Diggers Sleep at Night?

I mean, where do they sleep at night?

Do they dream of holes they dug?

Do their moms reach front to backhoe when they give a good night hug?

These are the questions of our era, friends.

And with little readers in the making (and much more reading for me!), I look forward to answering them.

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18 thoughts on “Why I quit making reading lists — and why I’m back

  1. Hi Meg,

    Have you ever read Becoming Jane Eyre? I just finished reading it and found it interesting. My favorite genre is fictional history so that may be one reason I liked it.

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    • I haven’t — thanks, Debbie! I’ll definitely look it up. I love historical fiction, too. Jane Eyre itself was a favorite of mine in high school.

  2. I’m glad you’re back! Taking a breather to find yourself is definitely a worthwhile reason to take a break, but welcome back to you! I hope 2019 is your best year yet, and only half as good as those to come!

  3. I love making lists, too! I think if I didn’t keep track of my reading for a whole year, I’d have a heart attack at the end haha. You’re exactly right though – it’s about feeling joy, and if it’s a task to check off, the joy vanishes. I’m glad you’ve found a way to reset. (As a side note, I feel most of the new moms I know struggle to find time to read. Maybe that happens to everyone for a while after they have kids because you’re quite tired and don’t have the time.)

    • Definitely true for me, Molly — parenthood threw everything I knew for a loop! But I’m happy to be tracking again and feel more refreshed for having taken a breather. Hoping 2019 is a great reading year for me! (And I’ll know … because I’ll have my list, ha!)

    • Thanks, Audra! I honestly didn’t think I’d be able to back off, because reading/tracking was just such a force of habit. But it felt good to have some space. I hope I can continue to return to these things that made me happy as the kids get older and I feel less like sleeping/crying all the time 😉

  4. Welcome back to reading! I actually went through the same thing many times. I felt like I was reading out if obligation and lost the pleasure reading. I even reached the point where I dread the thought flipping a book page. So I stopped blogging. Turn down all the review request and stopped accepting all blog tour events. Now, I enjoy reading and blogging about books again even if I only finish one book a month.

    • Reading out of obligation is no good. I’ve also scaled way back (to the point of completely giving up) the acceptance of review copies, and I feel much lighter because of it! I also average maybe a book a month — three or four by adding in audio books (I have a long commute). I’m totally good with that.

  5. hi, love the post. i was stuck on academic reading with this I lost the joy of reading. Last year when I went through a break up and moved back into my own space, I put my big comfortable chair in a corner next to a big window, reading lamp, and table next to the chair stacked my books, and rekindled my love of reading uninterrupted.

  6. It’s so lovely to see you back blogging again! I’m a big fan of my lists and my Goodreads account, perfect for keeping track of both what I’m reading and what I want to read next – Becoming is high on that list!

  7. I get so excited when I see a new post of yours pop up in my Bloglovin’!
    I am 100% the same way, where reading is a HUGE part of my identity. Aside from my kids… it’s the BIGGEST part of my identity.
    I stepped back from book blogging a few years back because it was burning me out. Now, I just write short little reviews for myself on Goodreads, just so I remember each book. Occasionally, I’ll do a full review on the blog, or for Netgalley, but that’s it. I definitely could NOT live without Goodreads though… obsessed with tracking my reading each year! It’s definitely taken a nosedive in the last couple of years since the kids (25ish books a year), but I want to increase it this year. I’m upping my goal to 50.

  8. I love this post. So honest!

    For me, I read 17 books in 2018, and I read two ARCs. So, for 2019, I want to go beyond those numbers. I love doing my Book Reviews and TBR Recaps on my blog!

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