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On Reading Out and Living Abundantly

One of the books that’s stuck with me since I read it in in 2011 is Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project. It’s one of those pseudo self-help books, focusing on one woman’s journey to feel happier. Ideas she posited in the book seem to come back to me at random times – recently while doing a Whole 30 – and often seem to offer some insight into my own behavior.

Early in the book, Rubin shares her 12 Commandments, the principles that helped guide her through her happiness project and her life. The one I’m thinking about this week, specifically in relation to my reading life, is her commandment to “Spend Out” – to stop hoarding, trust in abundance, and put things out into the world instead of saving them for a rainy day or a special occasion.

Going through my bookshelves as part of a massive book purge reminded me of how many wonderful books I’ve invested in… and made me realize I’ve somehow become unwilling to pick up the books I’m most excited about reading because I spend too much time thinking, instead, about when the perfect time to read the book will be.

I think a lot about books that would be great at the lake or at the gym, books that would be excellent during the Readathon or while on a long plane ride. I save books that I know will be great for times when I think will need to read a great book… ignoring the fact that there will always be more great books to read.

This doesn’t mean I end up reading bad books or disappointing books. So far, 2015 has been one of my most satisfying reading years since I started blogging. But it does mean that I’ve been letting my reading fall towards the books of the moment and letting other books I know will wonderful languish unread.

This has been the fate of so many books. Culling my bookshelves reminded me that I’ve been holding on to Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, Embassytown by China Miéville, Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood, My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante, This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett and so many others, just waiting for a “perfect moment.” And when those inevitable moments I’ve been saving a book for do arrive, I often choose something else, still afraid of spending out this abundance I’ve invested in.

I’m still trying to think about what goals or plans I want to put in motion for my birthday next month. Turning 29 seems like one of those big ones, like the last peak of a climb on the way to turning 30. But I do know I want to make the year one of spending out, of living abundantly and making sure to love and use and appreciate and enjoy all of the objects around me. For purposes of this blog, I want to “Read Out,” to finish books I know I’ll love to make more space for the great books I know are still to come.

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  • bermudaonion (Kathy) June 30, 2015, 8:02 am

    I tend to pick up newer books while leaving older books that I really want to read languishing on the shelves partly because the new books are more visible. I need to figure out a solution!

  • Shannon @ River City Reading June 30, 2015, 3:46 pm

    I never really thought about it, but I think I do this a bit, too. I definitely let books fall to the back burner for other reasons, but there have been times when I picked something up and second guessed myself because the time didn’t feel right.

  • Leah @ Books Speak Volumes June 30, 2015, 3:47 pm

    I was just about to write something along the lines of “I don’t save books for special occasions,” but then I remembered that I’ve already held off on reading a few books because I want to read them at the lake next month. Oops!

    A bigger problem, for me anyway, is neglecting to read the wonderful books that I purchased because I know I’ll love them in favor of reading books with deadlines attached to them.

  • Trisha June 30, 2015, 9:02 pm

    I don’t do this with books so much, but I definitely do it with tv…which is why I have 12 episodes of The Walking Dead DVR’ed but I’m all caught up on shows like NCIS: LA. Shows I really really like, TWD for example, I tend to not watch until I know I will be able to watch at least two episodes back to back. Since this rarely happens, I don’t get to my favorite shows and I fall behind.

  • Tasha B (aka heidenkind) June 30, 2015, 10:56 pm

    i recently cleared out my bookshelves, too, and to quote Mari Kondo of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up Fame, the time to read a book is when you buy it. I used to be really good about doing that, but now? Not so often.

  • Jancee @ Jancee's Reading Journal July 1, 2015, 7:14 am

    Good wisdom! I tend to do this as well, and with other things besides books. Video games, for example. My tendency is to collect and tuck them away for a rainy day, but when I have a great day with plenty of time to play, I make excuses to do something else.

  • Michelle July 1, 2015, 10:04 am

    Great thoughts! I recently had a similar thought process when I did my book purge. I have less than one year before I turn 40, so I’m looking for similar ways to make this year count more than ever. Good luck on your year of living abundantly!

  • Katie @ Doing Dewey July 1, 2015, 11:19 am

    I feel the same way about The Happiness Project! I don’t really re-read, but there was so much good advice in that book. I’d at least like to skim through it as a reminder 🙂

  • Shaina July 1, 2015, 4:24 pm

    This was enlightening for me, because I definitely have books that I’m “saving,” for whatever reason. I think her idea of “spending out” sheds light on the fact that we do plan so much around special occasions or “just the right time,” rather than considering that *any* time can be right for doing something you love or savoring something excellent. After all, if we build a dichotomy of special days to “other” days, does that mean the other days suck or don’t deserve nice things?

    Thanks so much for sharing! I think I’ll go hop on those books I’ve been neglecting. 🙂

  • Jennine G. July 2, 2015, 10:23 am

    You know, I can see myself in this too. “Saving” a book, only to have another come along anyway. Going to pay better attention and JUST READ ALREADY! Lol

  • Christy July 16, 2015, 7:21 pm

    That’s one of the concepts that has stuck with me from Rubin’s book as well.