I’ve been on a speed addiction for far too long. Thankfully, not the drug but the pace of life. Like most of us, I’ve gotten caught up in the do-it-faster-hack-your-life mode. And it’s necessary. Most times. My to-do list gets longer by the week, as the days get shorter by the year (Eeek! I sound so much like my mom). But what about the art of going slowly?
Is there space in life to sit and enjoy and stew and ponder and reflect and move through experiences slowly, letting them sink in and stain life, rather than wash away in a blur? Can I make room for this?
It sounds so idealistic, and I’m afraid I can’t do everything slowly, not if I want to maintain my chosen work-life style. But what I can do is adjust one aspect of my life. Just one. And slow things down. This year, I’m going to read books at a slower pace.
I’m a ravenous reader, chewing through books like skittles, often wondering if my pace of 2-3 books per week is admirable or ridiculous or just nerdy (none of which I mind, by the way). This is how I feed my habit: I have kindle unlimited, I go to the library at least once a month, I stalk used bookstores (London is great for them), and I have an assigned UPS delivery driver for my frequent Amazon orders (okay, this last one is wishful thinking). I admit. I may be obsessed with books.
I’d like to think it’s a healthy obsession but I do feel I fly through each of them and I’m wondering if I am missing content. I take brief notes while I read most, but I still feel a pressure to get through each one as fast as possible. Enter my next life experiment.
my (not so) grand experiment
While many are trying to complete 52-book-a-year challenges, I’ve decided to go the opposite direction and slow it down. I could be like an ordinary person and wait to start this in January. Ordinary is something I’ve never been. So, from now (end of March 2017) for the next 12 months, I’ll be reading one book a month. Slowly. If I’m finishing it too soon, I’ll re-read sections that I’ve marked as notable. I’m thinking this will allow me to reflect deeper on the story/message of the book.
Any other books I stumble upon have to go on my books-to-read list and wait their turn. Resisting the temptation to start reading more books will be painstaking, I think. Or perhaps I’ll be so immersed in the one book I am reading that I won’t have the desire for others. Who knows? I like experimenting and changing things up in my life. So, here goes.
As you’ll notice from my list below, my taste in books is pretty eclectic. I’ve always been intrigued by different genres. I like to think this variety helps keep my inspiration bubbling and my voice interesting. (That’s probably just my excuse for feeding my reading
Here’s my list, in no particular order, for the next 12 months. Some are re-reads (they are that good). Others have been sitting on my books-to-read list for far too long:
“What is your art really about? Where is it going? What stands in the way of getting it there? These are questions that matter, questions that recur at each stage of artistic development – and they are the source for this volume of wonderfully incisive commentary.”
“A modern black woman is transported to 19th century Maryland, where she faces the cruel realities of slavery. Kindred, Octavia E. Butler’s masterpiece, is an essential read and ‘a shattering work of art’ (Los Angeles Herald-Examiner).”
“Join O’Neill for a grand tour through the Middle East. You will laugh with her in Egypt, delight in the stories she passes on from the United Arab Emirates, and find yourself transformed by her experiences in Lebanon and Morocco. She’s packed her dictionaries, her unsinkable sense of humor, and her talent for making fast friends of strangers.”
“..an amazing archive of remarkable insights into the ideas behind Rilke’s greatest poetry. The ten letters reproduced here were written during an important stage in Rilke’s artistic development, and they contain many of the themes that later appeared in his best works.”
Another re-read here. I’ve lived a minimalist style life (except for stationery goods, that is. :)) for about six years. But I find every once in a while I need a reminder of why I choose this lifestyle and a nudge to clear out + declutter….again. Somehow things gather, even though I try to be conscientious about what I consume and collect, it still happens on occasion. I was a digital nomad for a few years. During that time I had no choice but to be minimal. But now I’m semi-settled again, I find I’m collecting. Definitely time for a re-read.
“The Joy of Less is a fun, lighthearted guide to minimalist living. Part One provides an inspirational pep talk on the joys and rewards of paring down. Part Two presents the STREAMLINE method: ten easy steps to rid your house of clutter. Part Three goes room by room, outlining specific ways to tackle each one. Part Four helps you get your family on board, and live more lightly and gracefully on the earth.”
I attempted to read this book once but lost interest. I’ve since seen Smith on a few interviews and read more about her and I’m intrigued. I’m also in a different emotional space now, so perhaps it will sit differently. That can happen sometimes with books. Some books take a little longer to get into. This may be one of them. It’s worth a try.
“Zadie Smith’s dazzling debut caught critics grasping for comparisons and deciding on everyone from Charles Dickens to Salman Rushdie to John Irving and Martin Amis. But the truth is that Zadie Smith’s voice is remarkably, fluently, and altogether wonderfully her own.”
Snippet from Amazon:
“The confidence that individuals have in their beliefs depends mostly on the quality of the story they can tell about what they see, even if they see little.”
A friend of mine has raved about this book for long. It’s not a how-to book. It seems to be about the intricacies of showing up to write daily, the challenges, and the bittersweet rewards of the craft.
From the book:
“Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.”
This is a re-read, a little fuel for my creative fire. I remembering flying through this book. I’ll be glad to take it a little slower and see if there’s anything I missed. I’m guessing there’s plenty.
A succinct, engaging, and practical guide for succeeding in any creative sphere, The War of Art is nothing less than Sun-Tzu for the soul.
A mystery and a love story spanning five decades, The Colony of Unrequited Dreams is an epic portrait of passion and ambition, set against the beautiful, brutal landscape of Newfoundland.
This is another that I haven’t read.It’s a subject (race in America) that many people do not like to talk about. And if it is openly discussed, it escalates quickly, with neither parties understanding each other. The point of this book is to shine a light on how it feels to be a young black man in America. It’s easy to look from the outside and guess or dismiss, but only those who live that life, feel the pain. This is a timely book that I cannot wait to dig into. Although having two brothers who’ve lived most of their lives in America and witnessing the pain first-hand, it can still be a difficult topic to explore; it is necessary and in some ways healing.
“In a series of essays, written as a letter to his son, Coates confronts the notion of race in America and how it has shaped American history, many times at the cost of black bodies and lives. Thoughtfully exploring personal and historical events, from his time at Howard University to the Civil War, the author poignantly asks and attempts to answer difficult questions that plague modern society.”
I’ve read this book countless times. I dip into it almost daily. I even share some of the poems during one of the poetry themed workshops that I run. It’s full of beautiful, moving poetry. The fact that I won’t be reading any other books simultaneously might make a difference in my interpretation and processing of some of the poems. We’ll see.
Being Alive is the sequel to Neil Astley’s Staying Alive, which became Britain’s most popular poetry book because it gave readers hundreds of thoughtful and passionate poems about living in the modern world. Now he has assembled this equally lively companion anthology for all those readers who’ve wanted more poems that touch the heart, stir the mind and fire the spirit. Being Alive is about being human: about love and loss, fear and longing, hurt and wonder.
I’d love it if you would join in with me in this year of reading slowly. Pick one of (or all of) the books above or share your list below.