Can we all stop pretending to be well-read?

Can we all stop pretending to be well-read?

Every year there are countless shortlists released for prestigious literary awards. I always have grand plans of reading every book on each of those lists and really becoming ~well-read. There are always several roadblocks standing in my way.

  1. I’m not going to like all the books on those lists
  2. I do not have enough time

There is just no way I’m ever going to get to read all those books. Plus, we all start on the back-foot. How can we ever get on top of all the new releases when we have a backlog of ‘classics’ to catch up on from decades or centuries before we were born?

Reading is one of my all-time favourite things to do but in recent times I felt the joy I had for it slipping away. I was picking up books and either not getting the time to really sit down and enjoy it or I would just find that I had invested my time in reading a book that I straight-up didn’t like, for the sake of being ‘well-read’. I mentioned in my January reading wrap-up that I had finally felt a little bit of the joy coming back.

In January I simply read as much as I liked. Of course, it helped that I had a little time off from work and that after Christmas, social lives seem to go radio-silent so finally I had a bit of time to actually read what I wanted to read. And that was the key – once I finished one book, I just looked at my book shelf and picked something else that I wanted to read.

I didn’t focus too much on what was a new release or what people were telling me I should read. I simply looked at my shelf and pulled out the book I felt drawn to. As a result, I had the best reading month of my entire life.

We all have ‘to-be-read’ lists as long as our arm. I know my Goodreads ‘want to read’ list is out of control. It’s good to have those lists to keep track of the books we think we might find interesting but there has to be a point when we stop making ourselves feel guilty for not being up to date.

I’m a big believer that books need to be read at just the right time. I first read Pride & Prejudice when I was 14. I hated it. Thankfully, I re-read it when I was a little older and now … well, you all know how many copies I own. I think it’s the perfect story and maybe I would have always loved it if I hadn’t felt so pressured to be reading the classics and to know what everyone was talking about.

It can seem difficult to remain ‘spoiler free’ with so many online discussions going on but it is possible to just not look. Don’t force yourself to read anything you don’t want to read. Leave that to the people who actually get paid to read. Reading is a pastime, a hobby and it’s supposed to be fun. I’m never going to be well-read and I am absolutely okay with that.


  1. Theresa Smith Writes March 1, 2018 / 9:21 am

    I think you are ‘well-read’ simply on the basis that you are a prolific reader. To consider yourself otherwise is prescribing to the definition that others have come up with. Honestly, any person who reads a lot is ‘well-read’ in my opinion. Their grasp on literacy would be far better than that of a person who hardly reads at all.

    • Louise
      March 1, 2018 / 9:24 am

      I absolutely agree but I do think there is this idea out there of what ‘well-read’ is! I’ve had plenty of conversations where I’ve been subtly (or not so subtly in many cases) shamed for not having read books that are considered classics or the big hit books of the year! If we keep on telling people that they’re not reading the ‘right’ things or not reading ‘enough’ then we’re just giving ourselves impossible standards!

      • Theresa Smith Writes March 1, 2018 / 11:29 am

        You’re absolutely right and I find it so arrogant that one person would infer to another that their book choices are somehow more substantial or worthy. It’s ridiculous really, when what we should be doing is discussing how marvellous it is that we have so much choice available to us on what to read and what format to read it in. That we are all reading is the key, not whether or not it’s the latest and greatest or the classic everyone should read before they die. I definitely see you point, just wish you had not been in the position of having to make it in the first place!

        • Louise
          March 1, 2018 / 11:34 am

          Exactly! It’s amazing how much we have to read – we should read as much of it as we want to without the guilt attached!

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