Defining life is easier for me than choosing a book to read. I’m sitting on the floor right now, staring up at the bookcase in front of me. My other bookcase is considerably smaller and directly to my right. The couch behind me is covered in books, too, and magazines that I haven’t read yet. There are five partially read books on my bedside table. About a dozen books are in an open shoe box on my dresser. If I were to buy a bookshelf like the one I’m sitting in front of, I would have to get two so that I’d have space to shelve books I buy in the near future. Because let’s be honest, I am going to buy more books. I wouldn’t really have a problem with all of it if most of the books were good. They’re not. I’ve read 180 books so far this year, and maybe 10% of them I’d rate good, great, or amazing. No more than 20 books. That’s it.
I’ve been wondering what the reason is behind that. Am I unbelievably unlucky and what I choose to read has been bad? That can’t be, because a lot of them are aggressively praised. I believe that books have right and wrong times to be read, which is why I’m always willing to go back to one at a later date. And I’ve read almost every genre out there, so the problem isn’t with overexposure to one topic. Let’s face it. Most books are shit.
I have such a difficult time choosing a book to read because I fear wasting my time. I don’t want to leave the house with a book and come to the realization that it’s bad while I’m on the bus during my morning commute. That would mean I’ve wasted an entire day in which I could’ve read at least 50 pages. I want a book that moves me, that makes me miss my stop because I’m engrossed in it, that makes me want to keep reading, that inspires me.
As a writer, my main three attributes are my imagination, my curiosity, and my reading. I’ll never trust a writer that doesn’t read. I’m studying creative writing at university, and in nearly 3 years I have only been required to read 2 novels. Everything else has just been extracts, each a couple pages long. In fairness, some lecturers did encourage us to read more and even tried to personally recommend books for each student that asked. Like Ta-Nehisi Coates said, “I was made for the library, not the classroom.”