July 31, 2017

Fifty books.

In any normal year, it takes me time to read a book. I read voraciously, but slowly, relishing the words and not feeling rushed to ever put it down. I scribble marginalia—mostly in notebooks and not in margins anymore, as I get most of my books from the public library—and I pause between every book I read to reflect, process, prepare for the next one.

I love the way Thu-Huong Ha thinks about slow reading, about creating a relationship with the text through a more leisurely pace to the consumption of a book:

By keeping your book in one location each time, you free yourself from the distractions of a commute or the pounding waves of a beach. As a result, a strange new relationship forms, between you, the voice of the book, and the room. Your ritual creates a singular association between the book and a quiet, private place, which in turn gives your relationship a new dimension. Your friend never leaves your room, has never seen you with makeup on, or shoes.

This year is different. This year, I have read fifty books before the end of July. This year, unlike years past, is not a year where books are relished, savoured; this year, each book is a salve, and I read to fill gaps, to pass time, to clear my mind when the world gets heavy.

List of books I’ve read this year List of books I’ve read this year List of books I’ve read this year

This year, I read during train commutes, while being anxious in waiting rooms, when I am unable to fall asleep. I read multiple books at a time, switching between each one to keep myself distracted and to pass the time when I can’t trust myself to be alone with my thoughts.

This year, there is no scribbling in the margins, no time to pause and reflect and recompose. This year, I read to fill time and space; I read to keep my mind filled with the words of others when I feel burdened by my own.

I hope, soon, to slow down. I hope to be able to sleep better, to spend less time waiting for bad news, to have fewer thoughts racing through my head. I hope that the second half of the year will bring with it some calmness and some levity; quite unusually, I hope it means I read fewer books.