The Agony and the Ecstasy of Reading

Have you ever put off reading a book because you really want to love it but worry that it won’t live up to your expectations?

I have.

I’ve held off reading various books for this exact reason. And sometimes when I finally read it, the book meets, even exceeds my expectations. But other times, the book just doesn’t live up to the hype.

What’s the solution? Oh yeah, just keep buying new books and never read the ones already on the shelf.

Except now I’m in a manic TBR shelf bookcase clearing challenge. Why? Because I imposed a book buying ban on myself to help encourage myself to read the books I already own. And it’s working.

To get to the end of my self-imposed book buying ban, I’ve started pulling books right and left off my TBR bookcase. Including several I’ve left, sitting neglected on a shelf, sad and lonely and collecting dust just waiting to be read. I’ve held off reading them because I want to savor them. I want them to live up to the hype. I want them to be exceptional reads.

And yet, I put off reading them because Schrödinger’s cat.

What, you may be asking, does Schrödinger’s cat have to do with reading? And some of you, who clearly weren’t Big Bang Theory fans, are asking what the heck is Schrödinger’s cat?

Schrödinger’s cat is a thought experiment in quantum mechanics where a hypothetical cat is in a sealed box with a vial of something that would instantly kill it (a radioactive atom). The cat may be considered simultaneously both alive and dead as a result of its fate being linked to whenever the vial breaks open (a random subatomic event) that may or may not occur.

Since reading is like quantum mechanics, Schrödinger’s cat may also be applied here. An unread book is simultaneously both an excellent read and a disappointing read as a result of its fate being linked to being read, an event that may or may not occur.

See, exactly like quantum mechanics.

This week, I’ve picked up such a book. A book I purchased over a year ago that has since sat on my TBR bookcase waiting for the day I’d read it.

I learned about this book over a year and a half ago through BookishFirst*. I read the synopsis and an excerpt and instantly knew I needed to read it. I rated it 4 stars out of 5 on BookishFirst just based on the cover, the synopsis, and the short excerpt. My review on BookishFirst, posted in August 2020, read as follows:

I found the writing strong and the premise intriguing. With the excerpt, I was instantly drawn into the story. The world building, so far, is good. Reminds me a bit of Horizon Zero Dawn, except instead of machines, this book has ghosts. I’ll be interested to see where the story goes. The cover is gorgeous. I love the colors and the imagery. This is a cover that would definitely catch my eye and make me want to know more about the story.

So I ordered it . . . over a year ago. Then it sat on my TBR bookcase. Like Schrödinger’s cat. Simultaneously a fantastic read and a disappointing read.

Yesterday, I finally picked it up to read because of my TBR challenge. And wow! I am totally not disappointed. In fact, I wish I had picked it up sooner. This book is proving to be a fantastic read. Total reading ecstasy. I even thought about calling in sick to work just so I could finish it.

But now I have a new reading agony. This is book 1 of a duology. The story doesn’t end with this book. In fact, it ends on a bit of a cliffhanger. Of course, when I bought this book, book 2 wasn’t out yet. But now I’ve read book 1. And . . .

I need to know how the story ends.

I do not own book 2.

I’m in the middle of a book buying ban.

A book buying ban that I’ve told many, many friends about. A book buying ban I’ve written extensively about.

I can’t, simply can’t go give up my TBR goal. I can’t cave and buy book 2. Not now. Not until I can yell HUZZAH! because I achieved my TBR goal. It’s too much of a slippery slope. If I cave and buy this book, justifying that I just need to know how the story ends, then I’ll cave on buying another book, and another.

Accountability, for goal setting, works people. I am tormented proof of that.

I am Jack’s overflowing TBR bookcase.

I am Jack’s reading agony.

The upside to this agony? I’m going to move through my TBR bookcase at an astonishing rate. I am more motivated than ever to clear that bookcase.

The downside? My first book purchase, once I get through this book buying ban, might end up costing the equivalent of Madagascar’s GDP.

My guess is that my TBR bookcase will quickly refill.

Ah well, it’s the ecstasy and agony of reading.

*BookishFirst is a book reviewing community for the U.S. that offers a first look at new books before they’re published and the opportunity to win free books. You also can earn additional reward points to exchange for free books. Use my referral code: a6818616a3d463e80 to instantly get 100 points


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