This can be filed under: Problems Only Bibliophiles Have. And note that I’m using the word “problem” loosely here. I’m talking about the too many books, too little time conundrum, but in particular about how when you surround yourself with readers you start receiving recommendations for and pressure towards certain books from all directions. Some I adore. Others show that person and I have very different taste. Yet despite the great ones, sometimes I specifically want to read something I found myself.
Most avid readers can relate to that feeling of discovery. It’s an entirely different experience purchasing a book you sought out vs. happening upon one that catches your eye.
I receive recommendations from numerous sources: family and friends, co-workers (especially when I worked in a bookstore), people I meet at conferences, authors, editors, publishers, people who want me to review their book on my blog, and reading reviews. Frankly, I receive more recommendations than I will ever realistically have time to read. So if I prioritize recommendations over my own discoveries, I quickly find myself frustrated that there’s no time left for books that I’m reading simply because I want to read them even though no one has told me to do so.
Some of these recommendations come with a certain amount of pressure, too. As a writer, bookseller, and reviewer there’s an expectation that I will keep up with what’s current, which makes older books much lower priority than those recently or soon to be published. Personal recommendations often seem higher priority merely because someone will keep asking, “Have you read that yet?” - a consistent reminder to make time for it next.
In the spirit of the New Year, I encourage all readers (especially those who feel pressure from one source or other to read certain books) to ensure that every now and again you read something that no one is telling you to read. Every now and then, go into a bookstore or a library or peruse your own shelves and read exactly what you want to read.