This week’s blog-task was to transfer across my reviews from April and May of 2009. As I said last Sunday, 2009 and 2010 were my two giant-reading years, so they will take me some time to transfer. I could get it done quicker, but I have so many other projects to work on. I don’t want to spend too much time throwing myself into blog maintenance, you know? I ended up doing a little extra this week, though, and adding June’s reviews as well. It was a hard week for me, with my aunt’s death, and I needed something I could focus on so that I didn’t focus too hard on grief. June of 2009 was an interesting month for books – not in a good way – and it gave me a lot to think about.
See, 2009 was the first year I got fully involved in the book-blogging community. I’d only really discovered that other book blogs existed in the latter half of 2008. When I discovered reading challenges? Well, I went a bit crazy, and signed up for Way Too Many. At first, I threw myself into completing them with an efficiency that was a bit dizzying. This is why I was reading something like 15-20 books a month! By the end of June, I’d completed nearly every challenge I signed up for (including the 100-books-per-year challenge, reaching 101 books by the month’s end). The result of reading like this? Total burnout. I only enjoyed 3 of the 20 books I read that June, and one of those was a reread.
It wasn’t as if all those other books were bad. Some of them were probably quite good, but I wasn’t in a place to appreciate them, because 1) I was reading too much and too fast, and 2) I was reading them only to fulfill specific criteria for book challenges. Many of them were books I never would have picked up if they hadn’t met that criteria. This is what got me thinking. As I transferred mediocre review after mediocre review, I realized: I was not a responsible reader back then. Not at all.
These days, I don’t read books that I don’t want to read. If I book doesn’t sound interesting, I won’t pick it up. If I pick a book up and the story or writing or premise doesn’t hook me, I don’t finish reading it. I don’t make myself read a little longer to see if it gets better. I don’t care if I abandon something on the very first page, or 10 pages before the end. I don’t read to fulfill any criteria except my own interest and enjoyment – and that means I also don’t read books simply because their authors, characters, or content is related to an important issue.
I completely understand the idea of needing to read diversely in order to diversify the market. In 2010, for example, I made sure at least half of my reading that year was by/about LGBTQ authors/characters/issues. But this active seeking out of specific issues – be it reading books by certain kinds of authors, or about certain kinds of subjects – led to the same sort of burnout as reading to fulfill arbitrary challenge requirements. Really, it’s no different than fulfilling a requirement, if the only reason I’m reading the book is social reform. For others, that may not be the case, but for me, to read this way makes me an irresponsible reader. It does no good for me to read and review a book I’m not enjoying simply because it meets XYZ criteria, no matter how important that criteria is (to me, or to others, or to society).
That’s not to say I don’t read or try to read a wide and diverse selection of books. I do. I specifically seek out books I enjoy by/about a diverse population. That’s the difference between now and previous years. After watching seven years of books slip into my brain and out through my fingers in review form, I recognize the times I am more and less responsible as a reader/reviewer. I don’t want to review books the way I did in June 2009. Those books deserve better than what I could give them. I was not the right reader for them. I knew that as I read them, and should have acted on it. It’s a lesson that took me years to learn, and I hope never to fall back into those old habits/mistakes again.