A Return to a Bad Reading Habit: Anxiety and Comfort in the Known

I have struggled long and hard to come up with a post topic for today. It’s too late the night before and I’m just beginning to type. This is why I don’t last minute things. I finally thought of a topic, and as I mulled it over in my mind it seemed familiar. I flipped through my old posts and what do you know, I’ve tackled it before.

That’s never a good sign.

Specifically, I wanted to talk about getting stuck in books you know. While rereading my post, A Bad Reading Habit: Anxiety and Comfort in the Known, I had to cringe. Why? One, I’ve fallen off the wagon yet again and keep picking up books I know off the shelf instead of getting new ones finished. Two, months ago I started doing the same thing with my regular TV shows. This particular habit I hadn’t realized until last week when my mom tried to turn on a season premiere and I tensed from head to toe and nearly starting yelling at her. Can you say over-reaction? I was floored.

The good news, if there is any, is that compared to when I wrote the first post, my social life has improved. Actually, my social life has exploded. The day job life has semi-imploded. I’m not sleeping well. My exercise routines are constantly interrupted. And I am struggling to balance coursework with writing and the day job.

I’ve been making a lot of big changes in my personal life recently and making big plans. Obviously, these things are major sources of anxiety for me. I’m not dealing with them properly because they’re bleeding over into other facets of my life in strange ways. Who has a panic attack over TV?

Granted, the world around us is not helping me feel better. Yesterday (as I type this) over 50 people were killed at a concert. Two young women were stabbed to death. And a cop was struck by a car and stabbed by a perpetrator who then ran a truck into pedestrians on a sidewalk. That last one was very close to home. I won’t even get into climate change and starving animals being destroyed or anything else.

It’s difficult to feel hopeful in these times. It’s difficult to motivate myself to look forward and work towards the future. I find I’m very emotional lately and dealing with even fictional surprises seems to be more than I can handle on a regular basis.

That’s the end of my whining. I guess I’m sad today. I’m going to give myself a break and allow myself to revel in the safe and familiar when things get bad. But I’m not allowed to hide there.

Rereading, Or Coming Back at the Right Time

This past weekend, I attended the readercon When Words Collide. I know I’ve talked about it before, but just in case: it’s a writing conference that also caters to readers, hence the name. This year marked my fifth year of attendance–yes, I can’t believe I’ve been to that many.

Each year there are big name guests, just as there are at any kind of festival. This year, Guy Gavriel Kay was one of the guests of honour. I haven’t read a ton Kay’s work, but those which I have have left their mark on me as a reader and a writer. He always makes it onto my favourite writers lists.

Anyway, Saturday morning writer David B. Coe basically interviewed Kay for 50 minutes. Not only did I learn so much about applying other passions to one’s writing, but it was so much fun to sit and watch because Coe basically bounced in his chair the whole time. Yeah, he’s a huge fan of Kay.

There was too much to take away to discuss here–especially about an ancient Chinese dynasty. But Kay said one thing that truly resonated with me as a reader. I can’t recall it verbatim, so here is my translation:

There’s a reason I’m such a big believer in rereading. You can pick up a book and nothing about it will work for you. Then six months later you’ll pick it up and it’s one of the best stories you’ve ever read. Those six months change you into a different person. We’re so mutable as humans, and what we bring to a book, even one we’ve read before, is always changing.

Currently, I’m rereading Kelley Armstrong’s Cainsville series because the final book is coming out today and I can’t recall everything that has happened in finite detail. Plus, I hated the first book when I read it. Armstrong is one of my favourite authors and I have never disliked anything I’ve read by her. But her main character and I did not mesh, and my dislike of her coloured my reading of the first and, I’ll admit, second book.

Coming back to them now is amazing. I’m not in such an anxious place myself now so my personal life isn’t colouring the main character like it did the first time (also knowing how she grows as a character further into the series helps too). This allowed me to enjoy the story so much more. In addition, because I read the books as they come out each August, I didn’t realize the timeline is so short across the series arc. The second book has picked up a couple of weeks after the first one ended. And I’m seeing so many little things that meant nothing to me when I first read them that I know are foreshadowing parts in books further along. It’s awesome!

I’ll also add that this is not the first time I’ve come back to a book and it worked much better the second time around. I’ve done the same with Wuthering Heights, one of my favourite books of all time; Sex and War, an excellent study on the nature of sexual violence as a tool of war; The Hobbit; and The Scarlett Letter, which I basically didn’t comprehend the first time I read it at 13 years old.

I have always argued that people should reread books. I think you take away something new, or at least appreciate something new, every time you read them. Kay’s statement has only bolstered my argument: you get to learn something new about yourself each time too.

Part of me felt guilty starting Omens because I have so many unread books on my shelves. But I’m loving meeting everyone all over again. I made the right choice.

Are there any books you’ve reread that hit the mark the second time around?