Does this sound familiar to you?
You’re ready to begin reading your next book. You go to your (very crowded) bookshelves and start reaching for every book you’ve been excited about recently. You begin to make a pile. You keep grabbing books until you have a stack of maybe 12 books. By now half an hour has gone past but you’re still not done.
You sit on the floor/bed/ in the chair and begin flicking through each candidate; reading the blurbs; dipping into the pages. Trying to weigh up whether you feel like a fast-paced thriller or a thoughtful novel about relationships. Or that book that’s just won a prize. But then, that little voice in your head pipes up: aren’t you supposed to be reading the next book club choice? Didn’t you say you wanted to read more by [name your author]. And what about that challenge you started months ago that’s now way behind schedule.
Meanwhile the minutes are ticking away. Time you could have spent on actually reading, instead of just thinking and agonising.
Indecision has undone you.
Sometimes the hardest part about reading is actually deciding what to read next.
Maybe you don’t have that problem. Perhaps you have your reading plans so carefully worked out so you know exactly not only what book you’ll be reading next, but what you’ll be reading next week, and next month. You may even be so well organised that you have your schedule plotted into a calendar or spreadsheet.
I’m more towards the opposite end of the scale. Not so completely disorganised that I miss deadlines for any books I’ve agreed to review. But with book club selections I’ve sailed too close to the wind several times, rushing to finish the chosen book just a few minutes before the meeting begins.
Experience with various reading challenges over the years have taught me one thing: I don’t respond well to heavily prescribed reading lists. I much prefer the free and easy, read on a whim approach.
But I can still get overwhelmed by the sheer number of books from which to choose my next read.
The more books I’ve acquired, the more difficult it’s become to make choices. Occasionally I’ve resorted to going to the bookshelves, closing my eyes and whatever my hand touches, becomes my next read.
A few years ago someone came to the rescue of pontificators everywhere by creating the Book Jar. The idea was simple. You just filled a jar with slips of paper containing the names of the books from your TBR. If you wanted to be clever, you could use different colours for different genres. Then, whenever it was time to choose your next read, you pulled a slip from the jar.
There was just one flaw in this concept. It was so, so easy to cheat.
If you drew a book you didn’t feel like reading right then, what was to stop you putting that slip back into the jar and pulling out another? If you were ultra naughty, you could keep going until you got the right slip.
The Book Jar was very popular for a while but I haven’t heard about it for a good few years now. I never did one myself – I just didn’t have the inclination to write hundreds of slips of paper.
Or maybe it got over-turned by a more technology driven solution. A random generator site like www.random.org can take the angst out of decision-making. All you do is to make a list of possible books to read, type them into the site, hit “Randomize” and the answer of what to read first, second, third etc, is done for you. I had a play around with this today using titles I acquired via NetGalley.
If you have more of a visual personality, you can achieve the same thing using an app (isn’t there always an app??) called Spin The Wheel – Random Picker. It’s available for IOS and Android devices.
Just plug the names of books into the colour wheel, press spin and the decision is made for you.
Of course, as fun as these two tools are, they have the same issue as the book jar: you can easily cheat. The random generator gives you the option to press “Again” until you get the result you want. With the wheel, you just keep hitting spin.
But if you’re going to do that then you’re no better off than you were anyway. So not much point really.
Will I use them? I might use Spin the Wheel occasionally just for amusement but I don’t see it replacing my “read what my hand touches” approach.
Now how about you? Do you suffer from indecision or are you a planner? How do you decide what to read next?