What Are You Reading Now?: Slice of Life #sol19

I look forward to Tuesday mornings all week. Not only is Tuesday slicing day, so I know I have some wonderful blog posts to read and comment on, it’s also the day the new episode of my favorite podcast, What Should I Read Next, releases.

In today’s episode, Anne Bogel talks to Will Schwalbe, author of two books I really enjoyed, The End of Your Life Book Club, about the books he and his mother read and discussed as she was dying of pancreatic cancer, and Books for Living, a collection of short essays on the books that have mattered to Schwalbe throughout his life.

Schwalbe shared with Anne that he thinks the most important question we can ask each other is “What are you reading right now?” I can’t think of anything I’d rather know about a person than what book they’re reading right now and what they think about it. But I seldom ask other people that question–probably because I myself always have so much trouble answering it.

First, I’m usually reading at least 10 different books. My guess is that no one asks that question and expects to hear me natter on for twenty minutes about ten books. Which one or two to choose to talk about? Leaving any of them out seems unfair, but talking about all of them turns a conversation into a monologue.

And second, as soon as someone asks me what I’m reading (or what I’ve read recently or what I love to read or what my favorite books are), my mind goes blank. It’s like I’ve never read a book before in my life. Maybe that’s what happens when you read 10+ books at once: you can’t recall what you’re reading when asked, and you forget what you just finished pretty quickly.

Schwalbe also shares his belief that the universe places the books we need in our path. We just have to be open to what the universe is suggesting. I’ve always believed that serendipity is the only reading plan I need, so Schwalbe’s is a theory I can get behind. It also explains why I struggle so much with book clubs, reading challenges, and reading plans, much as I love the idea of all of these things. With serendipity as my guide, I’m led from book to book to book, often finding that just right title for right now and quickly setting down any book that might be right at another time but isn’t quite what I want to read right now. Following a set plan of reading feels really inorganic and unnatural to me, even when I’m the one setting the path. At the same time, it’s not like I wait for books to literally fall off the shelf and hit me on the head. I must have a plan–of sorts.

Also, I probably won’t read that book you recommended to me, but I have no problem prioritizing a book because it’s due back at the library.

The reading life is full of contradictions.

What are you reading right now? And do you map out your reading life or read serendipitously or maybe a combination of both?






14 responses to “What Are You Reading Now?: Slice of Life #sol19”

  1. the p u r p l e lady (@th_purpl_lady) Avatar

    I feel this slice so much. I have an enormous to be read pile, and I usually have five or more books I have begun but only one or two I’m actively trying to finish. It’s a real struggle. One thing I use to help me stay on any track is Goodreads. I try to face my list and choose that one or two to really plug away at.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I get too overwhelmed by the TBR feature on Goodreads and don’t use it. So my list is always in my head or written in various notebooks or just in stacks all over my house, since I also regularly max out my library cards. I do this same thing–one or two I’m actively trying to finish though many begun. Glad I’m not alone in all the struggles, LOL.

  2. franmcveigh Avatar

    All of them
    and yet some days
    None of them.
    A contradiction.

    On Mother’s Day I read:
    The Alice Network and The Huntress both by Kate Quinn Historical Fiction
    Nothing work related
    Because it was my day to read!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      How wonderful to take a day to read just for you! I’ve learned about myself that I need to have one non-work related read to stay energized and not burn out as a reader. Certainly I get to read the most wonderful books for work! But it’s really nice to also have a grown-up book going that I wouldn’t use in any of my classes or recommend to anyone besides my mom! I haven’t read much historical fiction, but these titles sound interesting!

  3. readingteachsu Avatar

    It’s all serendipity for me though this time of year I develop quite a summer stack. I went to a book talk tonight so my goodreads is loaded up with student lit to read. I am currently reading 3-4 books, Sourdough, Merci Suarez Changes Gears, The Fabled Fourth Grade, Leading Well, and Patterns of Power.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I loved Merci Suarez and hope there will be another book about her. I would probably get more accomplished as a reader if I sometimes read according to a plan rather than only following serendipity. I think I’m still rebelling against all those years of grad school!

  4. arjeha Avatar

    This hit home. Although I don’t have 10 books going at once I do have one hand held book, one on my phone, and one on each of my kindles. Whatever I pick up first is the one I read at the time.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I love this way of choosing your books! I don’t read very often on my devices, though I do periodically buy or check out books for them. Do you find that you read different types of books depending on whether it’s digital or hand held, as you put it? Do you listen to audiobooks too? I’m trying to make a little more room for that as well.

      1. arjeha Avatar

        Must admit I never tried audio books. To answer your question, yes, I find I do read different kinds of books. I am willing to spend $1.99 on an author I don’t know or a book that sounds interesting whereas I will spend more to buy an actual book written by an author I like.

  5. Michelle @litlearningzone Avatar
    Michelle @litlearningzone

    Oh, I’m with you Elisabeth! I start many books until one catches me, then I stick with it to the end. I just finished up Merci Suarez Changes Gears and Piecing Me Together. I have Fish in a Tree to reread up next, but like you, I have to see when my books are due back at the library and may have to reprioritize!

    Thanks for your comment and support! Means so much to me!!!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I loved Merci Suarez! Such a treat. I still need to finish Piecing Me Together. Fish in a Tree is one I’d like to reread too, though I imagine I will get to her newest first. I love that library due dates can add a little order to my chaos!

  6. Ramona Avatar

    Oh, I wrote a detailed reply and just lost it. I can never remember book titles, so I should keep a list of completed books on my phone. I just finished An American Marriage by Tayari Jones and heard her speak this week at Seattle Arts and Lectures. It was a delightful evening. I also finished A Handful of Stars from #mymustreadin2019 list (which I had to retrieve from the other room in order to remember the title). I have a love/hate relationship with my book club which I’ve belonged to for more than 20 years I rarely read all the books (my friends love NF), but I did finish this month’s book, The Winter Soldier (HF). I listened to it on audiotape. I wouldn’t recommend it, but it was an interesting listen. Finally, our public library does a book bingo every summer. I throw it up on the fridge and let it guide my summer reads (sort of). Here’s the link –
    I totally get this: “The reading life is full of contradictions.”
    And I would love to listen to your monologue about all ten books you’re currently reading.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      So glad you retyped your reply! I wouldn’t have wanted to miss this! I might try to read An American Marriage this summer. I’m finding that I really like fiction for grown ups as my bedtime read unless I can find just the right level of contemplative in my middle-grade or YA. I loved A Handful of Stars, but then I’ve never met a Cynthia Lord I don’t love. I have considered joining or starting a book club (I enjoyed the one I was in in my late 20s and early 30s) but I so struggle to complete “required reading” and feel like I’d never actually finish the book and then I’d start skipping meetings! Off to check out the book bingo which sounds so fun!

  7. […] slice about reading serendipity and my favorite bookish podcast and why I almost never ask anyone what they’re reading right […]

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