Distracting Myself With Books

Distracting Myself With Books

Occasionally I do this thing where I just sort of read continuously. I’ll finish a book, maybe make a few passing remarks on Goodreads, and immediately start another one. Libraries, generous friends and book tokens become my favourite things.

I did this in the summer of 2013, when I was dreading my AS results, and then once I had them, to distract myself from the fact that they weren’t what I’d hoped. Those who’ve been around that long will know that 2013 was the summer when my wrist problems really developed, so I was in quite a lot of pain then, making reading one of the few activities I could actually do. I worked my way through most of the books Cassandra Clare has written and a handful of others besides: one after the other after the other.

I’m doing it now, too, which is considerably more surprising and also kind of more of a problem. I haven’t read this enthusiastically in a long time: either university and life has got in the way, or I haven’t had the mental energy to focus on a book long enough to finish it. I’ve watched a lot of TV over the last few months, but reading has been fairly infrequent.

It’s more of a problem because I do actually have work to do at the moment, unlike the summer of 2013 when it was, well, summer. Primarily my reasons for spending half of every day curled up with a book are that I’m in pain, and that I feel generally apathetic about most things, and that I’d kind of like to forget about both of these facts. Reading YA books continuously is a great way to take my mind of stuff for a while, and I can lose myself in them.

It’s mostly YA that I’ve been reading, although there are exceptions: I discovered that I can borrow ebooks from my library back home for free even while I’m in Cambridge, and read them on my tablet. It’s not the medium I like best, especially as the tablet is backlit and also too heavy to hold like I would my Kindle or a thin paperback, but it’s opened up a whole new range of books to read that I can’t get while I’m at uni unless I’m willing to buy them. (And I really don’t have enough shelves to keep buying stuff…)

Over the past few days I’ve read the first two Percy Jackson books, which were recommended to me years ago, but I didn’t get around to reading them. I know I’m older than their target audience but as somebody who studied Classics at A-Level I like that I get the references before they’re explained, and I’ve heard a lot of good things about the books later in the series. I also took a chance on two unknown books (libraries are great like that): Bombmaker and The Black North, both of which I really enjoyed.

Then, on the non-YA front, I read Tipping The Velvet (a well-known lesbian novel that I’d heard about but not read), which I liked; Holy Hell (another from the LGBT collection in the college library) which I didn’t like; and White Devil, which was weird and sort of scary and I definitely enjoyed it. That last one I actually bought, in a sale in one of the bookshops in Cambridge, and for the first time in ages I so enjoyed reading that it prompted me to go and read more fiction.

At the beginning of this term I promised myself that I’d read at least one non-uni book each week. I’ve done better than that this week: I read seven since last Monday. And I needed to. I’d let my fun reading slip as I struggled unproductively work, and my brain was starving for stories: I couldn’t get into writing mode at all because the words wouldn’t come. Now that I’ve fed that part of my mind a little, things are getting clearer. Maybe I’ll have some ideas soon.

I can’t deny the guilt I feel when I sit and read YA or even MG books instead of the academic articles I’m meant to be reading (although I did write an essay yesterday), but I also know that I need this. It’s a more productive distraction than watching hours of TV on Netflix, and with this freedom granted by the library’s ebook collection, I can sample stuff I’d never pick up otherwise. Okay, so they don’t have a huge variety of books, but I prefer to think of that as a challenge: let’s see how long it takes me to work through them all.

I can read a Percy Jackson novel in a couple of hours and maybe that’s a couple of hours where I’m not working or socialising or tidying my room, but it’s also a couple of hours when I’m not thinking about the pain in my shoulders, back and wrists. And that’s worth it, to be honest with you. That’s so worth it.

So I’m going to snatch those hours wherever I can, and make the most of the fact that my brain isn’t too fuzzy to read fiction like it has been recently. And it’s going to be awesome.

Also, while we’re on the subject, if you’re looking for a book that contains an engaging plot, an interesting female protagonist, no romance whatsoever and a thought-provoking message, which is written in a unique style and set in Ireland (I know, specific criteria), you should read The Black North. I really enjoyed it, not least the no-romance part.

What have you been reading recently? Let me know in the comments, and if you want to see what I think of the books I’m devouring, check out my Goodreads profile.

7 thoughts on “Distracting Myself With Books

  1. Reading any book expands your perceptions of the world, so is clearly productive work.

    Each book you read is practice in comprehension and other reading skills, so trains you to read set texts faster and with greater understanding.

    I have read many books recently. It is probably easier to check my GR profile:

  2. I completely understand this…okay, well, probably not really for what you’re specifically going through. But I’ve spent incredibly sucky/dark months just reading and generally feeling better for it. I only just finished the Percy Jackson books (well the first series) last month! I liked them, and they were cute and funny and I knew most of the mythology, buuuut, I did feel a little old. STILL. I’ve heard the second series is amazing. I needs try it.

    1. Yeah, I’ve read a few books recently where I’m like, “Heh, probably a bit old for this. Oh well.” Young at heart and unapologetic about the fact I read kids’ books.

  3. Can you please encourage me to read more? (ahem, that means “poke me until I go and read.” :-P ) I’m at college too (I’m sort-of a sophomore at the moment, and planning on taking summer classes so I catch up before becoming a junior), and C.S. Lewis helped last semester to clear my head when I was having panic attacks over my grades (I was pulling C’s for a while there, but I finally got B’s at the end of the semester, so that’s good,) and I need to be encouraged to read…. something other than school books… though I need to be reading my textbooks as well…
    NO FEELING GUILTY ABOUT READING BOOKS THAT ARE SUPPOSEDLY BELOW YOUR LEVEL! It is against the rules of being a thinking human being! C.S. Lewis spoke out in defense of children’s books. As an adult, approaching a child’s classic for the first time, you can even get more out of it than a child will, because of your greater experience!!!

    1. *pokes to go and read* For me reading is a way of escaping from my own head and is often the only thing that helps when I’m anxious. It can be super helpful like that.

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