Calm down, it’s not a race

A few weeks ago the news and The Twitters were inundated with stories about how Facebook and social media were making people feel bad about themselves. At first I scoffed, “Losers.” Then I read Caterina Fake’s post about the fear of missing out, and it made a little more sense. I can see how people would fear that. Sometimes I would see status updates or tweets and think, “oh man, that sounds like fun.” But then I’d remind myself that I was wearing pajamas. That trumps a lot of fun things.

But lately I’ve noticed that some of the stuff I was reading on The Twitters was making me feel a little bad about myself, or at least my reading habits. I follow a lot of bookish people (surprised?) and they are all the time tweeting about the books they read. They read a lot. A LOT. Like a two or three books a week. Some of them read a book a day. I have Internet acquaintances who’ve already read 40+ books so far in 2011. How do they do it?

I often wonder how much they remember of what they read. How do the stories have any chance to make an impact when they’re so quickly crowded out by the next book?

As someone who considers herself a bookish person I was feeling a little less than. It’s not so good. I thought I should be reading more, talking about books more, and not spending so much time with the real housewives of some place else.

Right at the apex of my self-flagellation I remembered a comment a friend of mine made. Warning: I’m about to be purposely cryptic about the identity of this friend. Why? Because he/she has written actual books and as a published author espousing this opinion might be seen as impolitic. I don’t want to out him/her in public over a comment made in a private setting. Got it? Ok.

This friend was talking a few months ago about book bloggers who read more than 100 books a year. “Oh gee,” he/she said. “Thanks for spending thirty-six minutes with my book. You probably got a lot out of it. I’m sure to put a lot of stock in your opinion.”

Remembering this conversation makes me feel better about my turtle’s pace. I’m the type of reader who reads every single word (except in the case of Freedom because if I had to read one more sentence about the damn Cerulean Warbler I was going to do bodily harm to myself or someone else). Sometimes if the sentence is clunky or beautiful, I’ll read it two or three times. If I don’t understand what happens in a paragraph, I read it again.

I like to think I’m a conscientious reader. Which is not say that the speed readers aren’t conscientious, perhaps they are. I don’t know. I’m not one of them.

This isn’t meant to be a dig on the speed readers. Hell, it’s obvious I envy their focus and dedication. This is more of a reminder to myself (and anyone who feels a little less than because they don’t read/party/drink/go to concerts/listen to records as much as someone else they follow/know) that this is not a race. She who dies reading the most books doesn’t win anything. There is no prize for reading the most books, buying the most new records, or going to the most concerts.

It’s ok.

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