So I have these books. These wonderful books lined up on the top of my dresser—books I chose purposefully, consciously, when I was thinking about what I wanted to read this Autumn. I’d still like to read them this Autumn. But then I watched Nora Ephron’s film Julie and Julia, and became thereby re-obsessed with Nora Ephron, so I had to buy I Remember Nothing, which is one of her essay collections. And then reading Nora Ephron made me realize that in order to write the screenplay for Julie and Julia, she would have had to read the book Julie and Julia. I attempted to read the book Julie and Julia several years ago and stopped. It wasn’t right for me, at the time. But recently, I was at my local used bookshop, looking for a biography of Nora Ephron, and what did I find instead? Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously by Julie Powell. It called out to me. It was–it is–the right time. So I bought it. And started reading it. I’m enjoying it so far.
I’m also still in the midst of Inkheart by Cornelia Funke, which I read before bed at night. Unless I’m reading How to Be a Victorian by Ruth Goodman, which I found at the library. I also briefly acquired The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry from the library, which I took out in a fit of overjoyed frenzy, having heard all the hype. I’ve accepted that I can’t go on with it just now, having too many other books on the go.
While all this has been going on, there my Autumn TBR books have sat, patiently waiting. The only thing that could make me feel anxious about them is, of course, me. The books do not mind when they are read. Indeed, they’d probably prefer to call to me in their own way, rather than to have me shuffle them around and line them up according to my own notions of order. I don’t set much store by TBRs in general for that very reason. I enjoy the process of creating them when the fancy takes me, but I accept that I am a mood reader and will follow my nose regardless…
And that’s the wonderful thing about reading. So much else in life depends on order and organization, swiftness and efficiency…but whatever we do, however we do it, the books are there. Unhurried. Waiting to be read, then put down and picked up and dipped into and out of, to soothe and guide and instruct as needed: the best medicine. The best friends.
I guess this is all just to say that the TBR, while helpful, enjoyable, etc., is not precious: but reading is. It is a precious gift, to be cherished and embraced. Better to read with joy and abandon than to spend one minute niggling over arbitrary set-ups and should-haves.
Long live spontaneity.