On book procrastination

Lia Zneimer  //  Feb 10, 2014

On book procrastination

There are two kinds of books on my "to read" list: the ones that I can't wait to start, and the ones I feel like I should. The latter are usually on my list by default: classics that I was never assigned in high school or college, books I feel like I'm "supposed" to read (Moby Dick, anyone?), others that I received as gifts and just haven't gotten around to for one reason or another.

When it comes to the books that I am for whatever reason reluctant to read, I find myself procrastinating. Haven't we all been there? That moment when you're staring at your bookshelf or Goodreads queue, trying to figure out what to start next and your eye catches a title that's been on the list for a year or two? (Or ten?) You're suddenly hit with a pang of Ohhhh... I should really read that one, and yet you somehow can't bring yourself to pick it up.

Late last week, I was struck by a tweet from OOM's Morgan Baden: "I'm 15 years late, but I finished THE POISONWOOD BIBLE today and good goddess, it is MAGNIFICENT. Truly one of the top 5 books of my life." Her tweet got me thinking: what titles have I put off reading? And why do I keep procrastinating in the first place? Once I read those books, will I be glad I did? And most important, how do I quit my book procrastination habit once and for all?

I decided to poll my fellow OOMers to get their thoughts, and the results were fascinating. Check 'em out, and be sure to share yours in the comments!

  • Mike had two: The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (he never read it in high school and finally read it as an adult two years ago) and Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. "The illustrations spooked me as a toddler. I finally got to reading it three months ago," he explained.
  • Nadia also cited The Catcher in the Rye. "I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t read it until after college," she said, "but I wish I had read it when I was in high school… I think I would have enjoyed it more!"
  • "I've been putting off America's Queen by Sarah H. Bradford, a book about Jackie O," said Megan. "I think it's because I have a really idyllic understanding of who she was that I don't want tainted, even in the least. My mother loved the book and I'm sure I would too, but the little I know about Jackie paints her as such an incredible, perfect role model, mother, etc and I hear this book gives you a more realistic picture. We'll see if I ever commit!"

  • Alex says she hasn't read The Fault in Our Stars yet. "I would like to read it while I am on vacation. I keep hearing how sad it is, so the last thing I want to do is cry  on my way to work on the subway!" she said of John Green's bestseller.

  • "I bought The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald years ago and still haven’t brought myself to read it," Brittany said. "I want to, but other, newer books have always drawn my attention away! This is a case of serious reading procrastination."
  • "I didn't read The Bell Jar until after I graduated from college," said Kristen. "I never knew what it was about, but the title and book cover didn’t appeal to me for some reason. My roommate couldn’t believe I had never read it, which finally got me to pick it up (and I loved it!)."
  • For Jess it was Pride and Prejudice. "I can’t remember consciously putting off reading Pride and Prejudice. It’s one of those books that you usually read in high school or college that was just never assigned. I read it 6 years ago, right when I moved to New York. It was an extra in a box and I dropped it in my bag and instantly fell in love from about page 3."