I Like Big Books And I Cannot Lie: it's one of those slightly corny bookish mottos you hear all the time. Somewhere along the line, the idea that all readers fall head over heels for books that are basically 10 pound door stops took hold and never let go. But what happens when you've got a serious case of "megalobibliophobia" — or fear of big books? OK, maybe it's not actually a fear. It's not like the sight of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix sets me into a panicked spiral — and I definitely remember reading it in two days when it was first released. But as my reading journey has continued, and shifted, over the past few years I have definitely noticed a propensity within myself to steer almost entirely clear of bigger books.
I'm talking the multi-book fantasy series in which each book is over 500 pages. The sweeping historical fictions that can reach near 800 pages. And most especially the classics that can end up with a page-count of well over 1000. If you're anything like me the idea of hunkering down with one of these behemoths is so foreign you can't even really picture it. But why? What exactly is it about these big books that make me shy away in the first place? I recently decided that it was time for me to take a good long look at this one particular aspect of my reading habits — and what I found is changing the way I read from here on out.
I've written before about how adopting a mindfulness meditation routine and taking social media breaks for my mental health has has unexpected effects on many areas of my day to day life, including on my reading. I truly believe that humans were just not meant to absorb the constant stream of news, conversation, and distracting entertainment that our 24/7 connectedness has brought into our lives. These things have changed our brain's and attention spans completely, and so fighting back against them by practicing — and believe me, I definitely still have to practice — mindful thinking and purposeful disconnection has had a massive influence on me in many ways. And yet, I only seem to be able to read one book a year that clocks in anywhere between 500 and 600 pages, according to my Goodreads page.
Is it fear of boredom that keeps me from cracking down? Have I still not conquered my fleeting attention span after almost a year of retraining my social media obsessed brain? Or have I just continually ignored one major bookish problem that keeps me from fully enjoying my reading life: the desire to read the most books I possibly can. When I made my yearly reading goal for the year, I took into account my current desire to stay purposeful in all that I do. And though I have stayed ahead of my very reasonable, mindfully chosen 52 book goal all year so far, I have read far fewer new-to-me books than I am used to in a five month period: 20. So, the idea of now taking an entire month or more to lose myself in an 800 page book gives me hives. And it was this that made me realize just exactly how much the numbers game has been affecting my reading life for years.
It's not that I'm afraid to read big books, it's that I just don't think I have the time. In a world that moves non-stop, it seems my reading has gone the same way. And while I've worked on being less distracted with my reading life, I still would rather read 50 medium sized books than 30 large books any day. But I think it's about time I let go of these arbitrary reading results. Because at the end of the year, what I'll remember most isn't the number of books I read, but the books that I loved reading. And if that number isn't quite as large as I expected — or quite as many as everyone else read — well, I'm going to practice being more zen about that, too.