Reading the Everest of Books; Or, the Pitfalls of Being a Competitive Reader

I said a crazy thing last month. I was chatting with a couple of friends about books one Friday night when I said the thing. (Hey, sometimes we talk about other things!) In my defense, I was sort of goaded. A good friend said that she was going to read War and Peace in January. When I heard that, the crazy thing just came out of my mouth: I’ll read War and Peace with you, friend! Even though I’ve just come off of a long book that took ages to read, some part of my brain thought that the best way to follow up would be to read something even longer.

Chapelain-Midy, Roger, 1904-1992; La liseuse
Roger Chapelain-Midy

I’ve known about that little part of my brain for a while. It’s the competitive reader part of my brain. While War and Peace has been on my aspirational to-read list for ages, I’ve always considered it to be a book that I would only ever read once I was retired and bored out of my skull. And yet, when my friend said she was going to read it this month, I suddenly couldn’t bear to let someone I personally knew read this behemoth when I hadn’t.

Being a competitive reader is a stupid thing. While it can push me to read things on what amounts to a personally administered double dog dare, reading books I end up not enjoying can send me into a reading slump—which I cannot afford if I want to best last year’s reading total. (Which is another thing my competitive reader brain really wants me to do.)

I’m sitting at about 28% of the way through a copy of War and Peace I downloaded from Project Gutenberg. It is shockingly readable. This book has a reputation for being ponderous, overly philosophical, but the first third is full of action and entertaining characterization. In spite of this, I’ve stalled a bit. I have a couple of books I need to read and review for NetGalley and Edelweiss by the end of the month, which interrupted my momentum. War and Peace is definitely the sort of book the requires momentum. Once I finish these review books, I hope my competitive reader brain can make itself useful by turning into a motivational sherpa again.

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2 thoughts on “Reading the Everest of Books; Or, the Pitfalls of Being a Competitive Reader

  1. I have a competitive part of my brain too, but I try to avoid letting him roam free when it comes to reading and writing (esp. the latter). Sometimes it helps you tackle biggest challenges that you’re otherwise afraid of.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I sympathize. I hate hearing or reading about a book that I feel I should have read! I have just finished Middlemarch and feeling v.proud of self!! I just wish sometimes I could read more for pleasure and less ‘should reads.’ In saying that….it’s all good!

    Liked by 1 person

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