Of course we all have books we don’t read, by necessity. There are more books published each year than any one person could read in a lifetime.
I’m choosy about what I read, because I have more books on my TBR list than time to read them in.
But I’m not talking about the books I don’t make time for, or the books I’ll never get to. I’m talking about the books I don’t read, categorically.
These are the books that sound very, very interesting. The ones pulling in rave reviews, the ones recommended by friends with great taste. But they still don’t get a place on my reading list—not now. Probably not ever.
I’m strongly intrigued by Paul Kalinithi’s When Breath Becomes Air, and I’m afraid to read it. It’s the memoir of a neurosurgeon who received a terminal cancer diagnosis when he was my age, and he wrestles will leaving behind his work, his wife, his kids, so devastatingly young. It’s a beautiful book (so I hear) but I’m not sure I can go there just now.
I have not one but two copies of The Things We Keep on my shelf, and I think it’s time to find them another home. This plot centers around a woman who is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s at age 38: for me, this is the stuff of nightmares. I don’t care how moving, how transformative this story may be. It’s not for me, at least not right now.
I keep hearing great things about A Little Life, which was all over the best-of-the-year lists, and also, according to NPR, has more triggers than a Texas gun show. I’m tempted, but like many highly sensitive people, I continue to pass.
Those may all be good books, but I can’t imagine they would be good for me. At least not right now.
I’ve been cautious about my reading for a long time; I also wrestled with this stance being immature.
But I felt much more comfortable with this stance after reading a small phrase tucked into one of Elizabeth Foss’s blog posts a few years ago.
Elizabeth is a cancer survivor, and books about dying or departed parents hit too close to home for her, so she studiously avoids them.
I think the world of Elizabeth, and I found her words to be enormously freeing.
I used to wonder if my book boundaries were fussy and a bit juvenile (even though I still read widely), but now I’m convinced it’s smart self care.
There’s a difference, of course, between maintaining healthy boundaries and willfully putting my head in the sand. Fiction is a wonderful way to push myself, to vicariously experience new things, to stretch my boundaries.
Likewise, there’s a difference between gently stretching my book boundaries and crashing through them. My goal is to feel the stretch, and avoid the crash.
Do you have your own book boundaries in place? What books do YOU categorically avoid?