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A Reading Vocation

"I Must Read, Read, and Read. It is my Vocation." - Thomas Merton

This is where I chronicle my reading life.  I also blog about writing at Lacey's Late-night Editing.


On Reading in Public

I love to read. I love talking about what I'm reading. I love hearing what other people are reading. I love the Internet for bringing us places like Goodreads and Booklikes to do this in.


But have you ever read a book with a fake cover because you were embarrassed to be seen with it in public? Sometimes I wish there were fake covers for the Internet (oh, wait, that's just called lying).


I've challenged myself to read 100 books this year, and books can't be counted toward the goal unless I post them on Goodreads. So there's no keeping any books "secret" like I did when I read a book about sex on my honeymoon and never posted it (it was an awful book, at any rate.)


I once confessed that a little judgment went off in my head when people checked out certain books at the libraries where I worked. And I've often felt immense compassion or even said prayers when I notice certain self-help books circulating -- about divorce, addiction, the death of a child. My heart hurts just knowing people need those books.


So I have to wonder, what little judgments might be going off in other people's heads when they see my reading list? Is there any way not to "overshare" what's in my mind based on what I'm reading these days?


Because these days, I'm reading a lot of non-fiction. And non-fiction gives the public a closer look at who I really am than fiction does. Would I be having these misgivings if I were posting nothing but post-apocalyptic novels? Probably not.


Before I got married, I wanted to read every marriage book ever written. I wanted some way to understand something that I knew, deep down, I could never understand until I did it -- and maybe not even then. But I wanted to get as close as possible, and books allowed me to do that. And I do think those books have helped me to be a better spouse.


Now we're talking about kids, and within the next couple years it probably won't be talk anymore. This is even bigger than marriage because at least with marriage there really is an optional exit, although I never intend to use it. And it's even more deeply personal, so much so that I feel uncomfortable asking parents the questions I really want to know. Cute posts on Facebook awaken the urge for parenthood within me, but they don't provide many answers. Books are one way to get intimate answers without having to expose yourself by asking the questions.


Except letting the world see what I'm reading does expose myself. I feel a sense of the general public rolling their eyes. God, she is obsessed. Where is the variety?


But then, why not read these books when the passion to read them is present? Rather than look at them stacked up, unread, six years from now when the urgency has passed, a reminder of, "Oh yeah, that phase," I can gobble them up and pass them on, and make room for my next obsession.


At some point, I will manage to self-correct. I'll OD on a certain type of book and naturally swing back toward something different. And if the current subject matter doesn't suit the real or imagined people who might be watching, there are plenty of other things they can read on the Internet instead.