31 December, 2015

The benefits of over-sharing

I have a confession that may surprise some people – even those who know me well:
I’m not a very good reader.

It’s not a literacy problem; I’ve just always been rather poor at reading books. Of course, I’m constantly reading ’blogs and columns, and magazine articles before that, but I’ve always needed a certain peace of mind to sit down and devour a complete book. Don’t ask me why. And due to my programming, it’s a peace of mind that comes all too rarely. As a result, my reading habits have traditionally been somewhat bulimic – I would binge for a month or so, and then read no books for sometimes years at a stretch.

In a crowded field, it’s something I’ve liked least about myself. I’ve always admired people who constantly have a book on the go and wanted to be like them – and I expect many of my friends assume I am – but I wasn’t.

That changed this year. It started when I took several books on holiday with me. It’s not unusual that I do this when I go away. What’s unusual is that this time I read almost all of them. I expected to slack off once I got home, but then I wanted to finish Mike Scott’s Adventures of a Waterboy before I saw The Waterboys in March. Realising I was in a binge-reading phase, I was determined to keep it going. Much to my surprise, I did.

I have read 32 books for the year. Now I must admit, a lot of them were short takes of less than a hundred pages, but by either titles or page count, that’s more than I’ve read in the previous ten years – in terms of books, anyway.

It’s not as if the peace of mind usually needed to sit down with a book was around this year. Indeed, it was conspicuous by its absence. For reasons not relevant to this topic, it has been a hellishly stressful year. This was also the year I did seek medical intervention for the aforementioned programming, but I was well into my binge by the time that started.

If I can credit one thing for giving me the reading habits I’ve always wanted, it’s Goodreads.

I first joined Goodreads years ago in order to keep up with my dearest’s reading.  She uses it mostly for keeping track of her own reading rather than to interact with others or brag, but let me tell you, she has plenty to brag about in terms of reading numbers. I gradually started adding books that I’d read. And then when I discovered the bar-code reading feature of the mobile app, I started adding all the books I had yet to read, and it made me somewhat ashamed. I started tracking my reading on Goodreads and added a few people I know from Twitter and Facebook, and now I get the feeling that friends will notice if I start slacking off – even though they probably pay no attention to my updates.

Oh dear! Social media again. Such narcissism!

Yes, I plead guilty to social media narcissism, but let’s also admit that we’re all narcissists in one way or another. If it weren’t for narcissism, we wouldn’t comb our hair or change our clothes either, so while I’m not suggesting that narcissism is any kind of virtue, it can be channelled for good.

I went to a little gallery ten years ago called the Museum of Particularly Bad Art, or something along those lines, and the proprietor said that its existence was testament to the fact that if you give voice to your dreams, then someone is going to make you follow them.

No-one in particular is making me follow my dream of being a better reader, but now I feel bad if I haven’t updated my reading progress a couple of times a week – and have something decent to show in those updates.

I haven’t connected my account to any other accounts – I’m not spamming my Facebook friends every time I finish a chapter, so by modern standards it’s not oversharing, but there are worse ways to overshare. So if there’s something you’re determined to do, try telling people about it. They don’t have to follow you, and maybe not many people will, but just the thought that someone may be watching can help you to finish what you started.

If you’re that way inclined, you can add me on Goodreads here.

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