Monday, October 17, 2016

On TBR, Rereading, and a (Hypothetical) Challenge

It's reasonable to assume that individuals who create book blogs/vlogs, and those who frequent them, are passionate about reading books.  We may prefer different genres, styles, or formats.  Bring on the audiobooks, reading apps, e-books, and print editions!  We may acquire our books through a library, a bookshop, the Internet, or any number of other means.  No matter how books come into our lives, and in what form, we love them.

For some of us, we acquire our books more rapidly than we can read them.  Books borrowed from libraries (and sometimes, friends) come with a due date, so we know that you have a limited time to read and return them.  However, when books are brought home to keep, they can share our space for as long as we want.  For some readers, such as myself, this means that books will be there when I'm ready for them.  Even if I'm not interested in reading a particular book now, if I own it then it'll be there waiting for me.  It makes me feel hopeful and grateful for the books on my shelves.

For other readers, having unread books can be a source of anxiety and stress.  Unread books may be segregated to a specific TBR area of the home and kept there until they are read and added to the rest of the shelves.  There are many book bloggers/vloggers who propose a "TBR Zero" goal, whereby all unread books are consumed before any more books are brought.  I find this a very amiable, yet daunting objective, probably because of the sheer number of unread books on my shelves at the moment.  There exists a TBR Calculator where you can input the number of unread books, the number of books you read in the previous year, and your age.  The calculator will then display the amount of time it will take to read those books.  Enter at your own risk!

So let's say that you successfully read your entire TBR, and have zero unread books available (BTW: way to go!) - now what will you read?  Certainly you could go back to frequenting your library, and acquiring new and new-to-you books.  But what about all those books already sitting on your shelves?  This brings me to another aspect of the reading experience that deserves some exploration - rereading.

Rereading is simply the act of consuming content that has been previously read.  In the world of bibliophiles and book bloggers/vloggers, the topic of rereading seems to get very little love.  Why is that the case?  I suppose it has a bit to do with the fact that publishing is a commercial industry.  New books are released every week, and publishers are constantly trying to promote them.  Social media, YouTube, television, magazines, blogs, newspapers all spread the word about new books.  A person can't help but be affected in some way.  Many book lovers also enjoy wandering around indie/secondhand/chain bookshops.  The same with library book sales, yard sales, et al.  These are all ways that a person can unexpectedly get inundated with books.

But what if we were to take a different approach to reading?  It might sound rather revolutionary, so I'm going to propose it as a thought experiment.  Ignore the hype, ignore the shelf-talkers and beautifully curated tables of books.  Completely ignore those triggers to consumerism and turn back to the loving arms of the books that are sharing your space.  What if you were to select X-number of books, those you find especially meaningful, relevant, and important, and reread them regularly?  Taking it a step further - what if those were the only books you read...ever?  How would that transform the experience of reading, and might it also have a transformative effect on the reader?

This idea was generated from a vlogger named Paige, who has a YouTube channel called Paiges & Pages.  Titled "The Hardest Book Challenge Ever", the video proposes the idea of only reading the same 30 books over and over again.  Paige puts forth certain constraints on her list, for example counting a group of books in a series as one book, so that it's not exactly 30 individual tomes.  But the idea is that, after each subsequent experience reading the same book, you would become aware of more and more depth to the story, the characters, and its relationship to the world at large.

Intrigued?  Frightened?  Both?  If you're even slightly considering this challenge, how would you select your books, and what books would you select?  On the other hand, let's say you've been rereading certain books for awhile, and you've grown to the point where those books have nothing more to offer you.  Would you continue to reread those books, or would you take time to re-evaluate your list and make substitutions?  If so, what interval of time would you use for your evaluation?

There are a lot of questions here, and I'm still working through them myself.  Look for a future post with all of the (hypothetical) details and a list of rereading contenders.

Librorum annis