In praise of bookish deadlines and library due dates.

In praise of bookish deadlines and library due dates.

Last week I was walking into the library, carrying a gigantic stack of books to return, when I bumped into a friend carrying an equally giant stack she’d just checked out.

We laughed about our respective loads. My friend said, “In a perfect world, there would be no due dates.”

I agreed, and we went our respective ways.

But later, I got to thinking—and I realized I’m quite happy to live in a world with due dates. I don’t think I’d read nearly as much, or as carefully, without them.

My shelves are overflowing (literally, at the moment) with books I want to read. I have a whole library system at my disposal. My local bookstore can track down almost anything I want.

Deciding what to read is a problem. With so many books to read, how can I possibly decide what to read when? What to read next? 

I’m often guilty of telling myself I’ll get around to reading a certain book one day. A good deadline forces me to ask myself if I’m ready to read it right now. (If I’m not, does it even belong on my TBR list? Sometimes, but not always.)

Bookish deadlines can take many forms.

Sometimes it’s a library due date. That’s why I finally read Edenbrooke: I’d checked it out of the library several times before, and returned it every time unread. When another due date (with no renewals available!) rolled around last month, I couldn’t bear the thought of returning it unread, again.

Sometimes it’s an event: book club is obvious, but coffee with a friend is often enough. When I have a coffee date on my calendar, I want to show up having read the book she pushed into my hands last time we saw each other. That’s why I read Ready Player One.

Sometimes it’s a friend who’s itching to borrow a book. That’s why I’m plowing through The Art of Memoir right now as my top priority: my friend can’t wait to read it when I’m done.

Sometimes it’s a blog post: I bumped The Secret History to the top of my stack because I wanted to know if it was worth including in the campus novels post. I’ve been meaning to read it for years; the self-imposed deadline finally made me do it.

Sometimes it’s Quick Lit. Many of you have told me that the monthly link-up helps you plan your reading, and inspires you to make sure you’ve read a book or three or five before the 15th rolls around.

Don’t get me wrong: I still have my moments of raging against deadlines, and it’s always sad to return unread library books.

But do I think they’re overall a good thing for my reading? Absolutely.

How do you feel about due dates and deadlines? Tell me all about it in comments. 

In praise of library due dates and bookish deadlines.

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95 comments

  1. I’m very much the same when it comes to due dates – it is such a rush that I enjoy! Not that I consider myself a procrastinator, but it really makes me reflect on which ones come first! After undergrad and moving after grad school, I couldn’t wait to get my library card so I can give myself a whole library at my disposal but also being respectful of the 2-3 week due dates (although I admit, I do renew fairly often!)

  2. liz n. says:

    Bit of irony: I’m pondering whether or not to enter the Margaret Atwood writing contest, and the main thing that would keep me from doing so? Deadline. LOLOLOLOL

  3. Jane says:

    I used to be the worst at returning books on time – racking up large fines! (At my school, I racked up such large fines, and was too scared to tell my parents, however the fines get added onto the account your parents pay at the end of the year, so I just waited it out, and read books there, never borrowing them! Terrible, I know!)

    Now, my local library sends out emails letting you know when the books are due back, two days before they’re due! So handy! I can also renew online now, so I find I get the books back on time now or I renew them, thus avoiding fines!

    But generally, I read what I really want to read, and sometimes return those that don’t grab me or that I didn’t get around to reading. I try to enjoy what I read, rather than feeling obliged to read this book or that book because it has all these awards or whatever.

  4. Katherine Salinas says:

    Honestly Anne, your 2015 Reading Challenge has been one of the best things for me. I have read some books I would never have chosen had it not been for that. I combined that with the Goodreads challenge and have nearly hit my goal in October (which is good since I’m due with baby #3 in 3 weeks!!).
    I often want to read non-fiction but find myself choosing fiction first every time. The challenge also “forced” me to choose some other non-fiction that has been on my TBR list for a long time. Next year, I will just try to read alternating fiction and non-fiction since I seem to have saved all the non-fiction for the end of the year! 🙂
    Thanks, Anne, for always providing new great reading material (my TBR has exploded since I started following your blog!!) and challenging me to do what I LOVE to do! Like other people said, I keeps me from watching garbage on TV when I could be reading instead!

  5. Susan Shaw says:

    I was thrilled when our local library system began automatically renewing books this past spring. They just renew it (ten times or something crazy) unless it is requested by someone else. Very convenient, but not very good for the procrastinator in me. Why read it now when it isn’t due? It has made me realize that I sometimes like having a deadline because I am too good at putting things off.

  6. Anna says:

    Yes, deadlines help me to get motivated about getting things read. It can be things like library due dates, events, or “social” due dates. (wanting to talk about it with friends, etc.) So many books, so little time…

  7. Laurel says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with all of this. Once I finally get a copy of the book from the library, especially those ones that I wait FOREVER for, it immediately moves to the top of the pile and that lingering due date is my latest incentive for getting it read STAT. 🙂 Same with the opportunity to read with others. I love a good book discussion and I hate coming unprepared.

  8. Anne says:

    Oh yes! And the fines, too! The due dates on my library books have been driving which books I’ve been reading lately and encouraged me to plow through many of them. Interestingly, I got Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker on ILL and I couldn’t get into it at all; I think the $100 fine if I damaged the book (or more likely my 2.5 year old) was a huge deterrent. I won’t be using ILL at this library system again.

    Thanks for all your recommendations – I’ve started following your blog from Laura Vanderkam and Money Saving Mom. I think I’m a HSP, too, and I appreciate your fiction recommendations; I have no problem finding great non-fiction but I can’t always read the standard popular or best seller literary fiction if the content is too graphic or disturbing. I’ve plowed through The Boys in the Boat, Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore, Where’d You Go Bernadette, and the Storied Life of A.J. Fikry in the last month. As a former professional now SAHM, I realized I’m happier when I have a book in queue to read.

  9. I rage against due dates, but when it comes down to it, you’re right. Also, I just finished Edenbrooke at your suggestion and I’m SO glad I did. Possibly my favorite thing I’ve read all year. So relaxing.

    What is annoying though, is when you forgot to pay attention to the deadlines and you really do want to finish but you can’t because someone else has it on hold after you and you can’t renew. I FINALLY got Go Set a Watchman from the library, only to put it off because I “had” to read it (leftover from TKAM being required reading in school I think) and now don’t have time to finish. And of course there are a million people in line behind me!

  10. Lola says:

    Hi !
    I’m the one who said I wished you talked more about foreign books. A translated novel that was a worldwide bestseller, has amazing descriptions and is a short page turner is “the man who read love stories”. It starts with a dentist travelling along the amazon with a bag of dentures, and the rest is just as good 😀 Despite the name, it’s not really a love story.

    A recent French bestseller that’s also a cheesy love story is “If only it were true”, where a guy meet a female ghost and falls in love with her, but the real her is in a coma across town. It’s sweet, but it’s 100% love story.
    (I also found Modiano, the latest Nobel Prize winner to have easy reads, but it can get darker)

    I wish you a nice day 🙂

    http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/762211.The_Old_Man_Who_Read_Love_Stories
    http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/386887.If_Only_It_Were_True

  11. I definitely need due dates – both with library books and the books I read to review for Shelf Awareness. Those dates help focus my reading, and then I can squeeze in other books – which are mostly pure pleasure – around them.

    • Anne says:

      “Those dates help focus my reading, and then I can squeeze in other books – which are mostly pure pleasure – around them.”

      That’s very similar to my own process.

  12. Terri Torrez says:

    I was just thinking about deadlines this week. I stopped listening to the Iron Druid Chronicles so I could finish We Were Liars before it’s due date. I’d rather be reading Iron Druid right now but I’d regret returning Liars unread. (And 60% in I’m sure I made the right choice.)

    I also think due dates help me to be more resolute about abandoning books. If I own it, I’m more likely to keep it on my “to finish” list indefinitely. If I return a book it’s easier to acknowledge I have no intention of checking it out again. I abandoned more books this year (since I started using the library again) than in the last decade, and I think that’s a good thing.

    • Terri Torrez says:

      Totally unrelated but I just had to share – we just moved and are now only three short blocks from the library, an even better library than our old town. 🙂

  13. Jamie says:

    Have to have deadlines; fight them like a little kid. My (expensive) weakness are library kid videos. A dollar a day PER video when overdue. That adds up when you have 7 checked out and go out of town for 5 days…

  14. Paula says:

    I also like library book due dates. It does help me keep up with my reading. Although I agree with another commenter that it would be nice if they correlated with the book. Most times, I can take out two or three books and have them back within the two or three week lending period. But right now I’m reading the last book in the Outlander series and it’s HUGE. I’ve read it every day since I took it out and still have several chapters left. It was due some time last week.

    BTW – I LOVED The Secret History, one of my favorite books ever.

  15. Ariel says:

    This is the first year I’m doing a reading challenge, which is basically a long-term deadline. I’m not really sure if I’m reading more (this is also the first year I’m making a point of putting every book I read on goodreads as I read it), but I feel like I am.

    Library due dates, on the other hand, can be more likely to make me NOT read something. My last library returns pile was only one out of three read–I wasn’t sure I would finish another one before I had to return them, particularly since it’s my home library system, not my school one. Of course, then I picked up the same book a few weeks later and read it in the first week. I guess deadlines can be a good thing, but they cut both ways; I may be less likely to start a book if I am not sure I can finish it by the deadline.

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