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?