books make me a better person

I finished two books this weekend and don't know how to describe the feeling it brought me: something like calm, and sureness, and a more solid hold on who I am. It's a mild but very comforting feeling, and I think it definitely helped my good mood stick around come the work week. They were both very good books, to be sure, and very thought-provoking, but something about the very act of reading and finishing the books inspired almost as much pleasure as it did to lose myself in the stories.

Reading sometimes feels unproductive to me. I know objectively it is not – it's honestly probably one of the more enriching things I can do with my time that I actually enjoy. But – yes, okay, call it toxic positivity, but – I always feel like I could be doing one of my more generative hobbies instead. I'm bad at getting around to watching shows and playing games for the same reason, even when I want to.

And unlike TV and games, reading also has the added hurdle of not having a social aspect to it: I don't have many friends who read (books), and even when I do, we usually have few titles in common. So it's not like I'm spending my time doing anything I can share with anyone else.

But when I think about it, all those things are actually what make reading so enjoyable. For example: I can delay starting a book all I want, but once I actually do it, I usually end up turning my brain off and just diving in. Obviously, my brain is not all the way off, as I'm taking in and processing the information, but once I'm in a good book – like, a GOOD book – I never actually think "I should be doing something else." It’s the best method I have to get out of my head, which I probably need to do more. (Additionally, my full concentration is required in order to get anything out of it, so it's effective against that anxiety in a way TV and games are weaker at.)

And in the age of sharing everything especially online, it's also nice to have something that's private, just for you – almost like a secret. While I would like more of my friends to be reading books, I love not feeling pressured to read a certain book just because everyone else is. I like choosing books solely because they interest me rather than so I can talk about them at the lunch table at work, but I'm also delighted whenever I find someone else who's read them. I also like that the effort that goes into reading a book is greater than that of watching a show, so others who have read the same book are more likely to have full, interesting takes on it in conversation. It can be social, but in an opt-in, intentional way, which I find very appealing.

I have a goal of reading 25 books by the end of the year. I'm at 11 – clearly still battling my reading demons, but farther along at this point in the year than I was when I set a year-end reading goal 2 years ago. I'm excited by this, so I'm going to finish this post here without a proper ending so I can go pick out another book BYE.

books i finished this weekend

  • The Children of the King by Sonya Hartnett
  • The Notebook by Agota Kristof