Announcing The Demise Of BookGirl

I’m trying to come to terms with a massive shift in myself lately. I’m still processing. I’ve got as far as acknowledging the truth of it, but not quite as far as calm acceptance.

I don’t like to read books any more.

Oh boy, passthepaperbag, would you?

This is the girl who would get through 10 library books in a week. This is the girl who filled half her luggage space with books when going on holiday This is the girl with the serious Amazon addiction. This is the girl with well over a thousand books in her teeny tiny cottage.

Here’s how it happened. When I was really really ill, earlier in the year, I couldn’t read. Nothing made sense, I couldn’t concentrate, I couldn’t even choose what book to read. That beautiful, easy escape from reality was closed to me. For three months, or so, I didn’t read. Then, as my concentration started to improve, I began reading again, but only non fiction. Diaries, collections of letters, biography, that sort of thing. Not very enthusiastically, but I made myself. ‘Gotta get back to normal’, I told myself. But I still couldn’t concentrate enough to follow a plot, or remember who the various characters were, so fiction was out.

Once properly better, I tried fiction again. Nope. It wouldn’t stick. The characters still got muddled in my head, the situations didn’t ring true, I struggled through a book, and felt relief once it was over. ‘I must not be quite better yet,’ I thought. I gave it more time.

In the meantime, I stuck to non fiction. And at some point, I realised, this can’t be a concentration problem, because I don’t have any problem reading a book now. I zipped through one travel book in a matter of a few hours. I just don’t like fiction any more.

I think that it’s lost its magic. When I needed to step away from my reality the most, it didn’t work, the door was closed. The enchantment has gone. And in any case, I don’t want to escape reality any more. I did enough of that over the years, and it didn’t do me any good. Nowadays I’m working very hard to be present, to be in the moment, to fully experience life, instead of hiding away with my nose in a book. This makes me very nervous – it’s like walking on a tightrope without that safety net beneath you – but it’s what I need to do. I’m getting the hang of it.

In addition to all of the above, I don’t want to give the time to reading that I used to. I want to be doing, not reading. I want to be productive, creative. There are so many things I’ve interested in, so many projects I want to make, so many skills to learn. This is how I want to spend my leisure time.

So, the very little reading that I do now tends to be instructive. I’m working through the Self Coaching book I told you about last week. I have some modern quilt books on order. I dip into the occasional biography or diary (although rarely). And of course, I read lots online, tutorials, forums, blogs. The only fiction I get through is in the occasional audio book, which I can listen to while doing other things, and drift in and out of without really paying much attention to it. A soothing background noise. Mostly of books I have read many times in the past.

It’s all a bit strange and unsettling. But then, any kind of growth is an uncomfortable process, right? 

7 thoughts on “Announcing The Demise Of BookGirl

  1. I’ve had this happen at least three times in the last few years. I can’t commit to a novel, I read the last page and decide it’s not worth going back and finishing. At first I thought that I was taking out rubbish books (from the library). Then I wondered if it was concentration (lack of !). I also think not having enough time in the day to do everything I want to do was part of it.
    What helped is seeing it as something you’re going through, rather than something that’s been lost. My reading mojo comes back sometimes (detective fiction seems to help, for me), but nowadays I don’t force it. I have a million things I can do instead, and rather than keep library books out for weeks and weeks, I don’t take them out at all, reasoning that at least someone else can now have access to them.
    I hope you stop feeling unsettled and concerned about this soon – it might come back, it might not, but forcing yourself to want to read fiction won’t help. I should know – I’m a librarian !

  2. It’s strange, isn’t it. Maybe it’s a phase we go through at some point, because I seem to be in the same boat as you. I’ve read all my life. I read for a living (I’m an editor). But I don’t read to relax anymore – I do still have a book by the bed that I read every night, but I too have noticed that I’m reading more biographies and fewer novels than ever. At the moment I’m reading an Agatha Christie novel in French, but I know I’m not doing that for the ‘escape’ feeling – I’m doing it to improve my French…
    And I really do understand the feeling that you want to be doing creative things, rather than passively reading. There are soo many things out there to go and play with – whether it’s knitting, sewing, craft, painting, singing, dancing, pottery, gardening… Whatever. It’s good to create. Go with it…

  3. Do you think it might be an ‘age & stage’ thing? Over the last five years or so I have found myslef drawn more and more to non-fiction and if you will accept a recommendation I cannot praise too highly ‘Colour’ by Victoria Finlay. It is research about how colour has been used in painting but it is a history book, a sociological study, a geography lesson and an examination of cultural diversity and value.

    However you approach this ‘Normal 2.0’ I wish you peace in the moment.

  4. Embrace what you are now and enjoy your new found delights. Books will always be there if you need them but there are no rules that say you need them in your life constantly. One day at a time is my motto and for now it is working! Sx

  5. I have also lost my reading mojo.I don’t seem to have read a book that I can say I have really enjoyed for ages.I think I might try some biographies.

  6. This happened to me! In fact I think I once wrote a version of this post. I went through a really long time of not being able to concentrate (stress) and I thought it was because of that, but I can concentrate now again and I still don’t read fiction. I read loads of other stuff (well, I read lots of knitting and cookery books) but I just don’t care about novels. I’ve made a real effort to get it back and I’ve not given up entirely yet but, there’s just so much else to do. (Although like Maria says above, I do read books in French and for the same reason!).

  7. I definitly understand the need to be DOING things. I found a great compromise – I listen to books! when I drive, knit, fold laundry, cook – I love it, especially when there are excellent narrators – it is almost like being in play! Have you ever tried this?
    Some recent great books I “read” – The French Wife, Still alice, A Secret Well Kept, Out Stealing horses (I love the Scandinavian books with the wonderful accents…).