I love reading and I love books. I was that person that couldn't leave a bookstore without buying at least 3 books, regardless of how many unread piles I had at home. This was mostly thanks to the clearance sales at bookstores; Kuwait unfortunately doesn't have much of a reading culture which led to three major bookstores, two of which had been operating since I was a child (maybe even before I was born) to close down. The piles grew every time I traveled to India or Europe and drooled over the independent and second-hand bookstores there. Isn't book shopping the best kind of retail therapy?
Over the years, it came to the point where my impulsive book purchases were spilling out of the shelves and onto the floor, leaving very little room for me to walk in my own bedroom. There was no space for more bookshelves. And I wasn't always able to commit to the books I was reading— the book was either not holding my interest, or I was no longer in the mood to read them (rarely has the excitement in which I buy books sustained long enough for me to read them). My list of current reads on Goodreads gradually grew to over 30. It started giving me anxiety, all the books that were infringing upon my space and taking over my life, books that I couldn't find the time to read that I held on to in the hope that I one day would.
I didn't know what to do about it. I didn't have the heart to give them away. Because one day—who knows when—I would definitely get around to reading them all. Or so I secretly, desperately hoped. Because I was also conveniently ignoring the fact that I wasn't a fast or focused reader.
The solution came unexpectedly in the form of a speed reading workshop organized by a local cultural organization. In one week, I learnt several speed reading techniques, improved my concentration considerably and speed read Ego is the Enemy, understanding the art of reading non-fiction in the process, which I've since applied to other books. I don't speed read everything though (fiction, for instance, is meant to be savoured), and to be honest I practice the skill more while reading articles than books, but I'm really really happy I was able to pick it up (if speed reading is of interest to anyone I'll write about the workshop in a future post).
The week after attending the workshop, we had to move apartments. I finally told myself I didn't want to carry this clutter into my new room. Because even though I was armed with this new skill, a lot of the books I have are fiction, and I still read according to the dictates of my mood. My room was supposed to be my sanctuary, and with the number of books littered in piles all over the floor, it was anything but. I made peace with myself and reorganized all my books, boxing away the ones I was least likely to read anytime soon, sending ones I'd read and loved to our apartment in India, and donating the one-time reads I didn't care for. I also returned quite a few of the books I'd borrowed from friends. I now exercise a LOT of self-control while going into a bookstore, and often just get the book on my iPad if I really want to read it (and if I do, I make sure I read it unless it sucks).
Now my new room is my sanctuary. There's plenty of floor space and there are no more books than can fit in the bookshelves. And I intend to keep it that way.