Your Reading Life

We RIFers are voracious readers and we love to tell a good story. Your Reading Life features personal essays, reader reviews — anything that embraces our literary lifestyle. Pull up a mug of your favorite cozy beverage and join in on the conversation.

Something has to give, and apparently I can’t leave my clothes behind in order to stack the wardrobe with books.

“The thing about being a critic is that you get sent a lot of review copies,” says Kaite Welsh, “and while that’s wonderful, sometimes I feel like Mickey Mouse in The Magician’s Apprentice when his spell goes wildly out of control.

We move in a week. There are 28 boxes of books, and that’s not counting the pile I need to read in the next fortnight which I have optimistically refused to pack yet. In comparison, my clothes only fit three relatively small suitcases.”

For anyone who places value on books, an occasional purge can bring on a mild existential crisis with flashes of anxiety, guilt and regret.

“Yet even the most sentimental book lover must, at some point, clear space for more books,” notes Julia Serebrinsky.

“My moment of book purge liberation came when I was getting ready to donate my modest collection of Sylvia Plath biographies to a local library. Anyway, as I leafed wistfully through one of them I discovered a long lost portrait of my mother, sketched by an old friend, a portrait we all loved and presumed lost. I took it as a sign and a calling.”

Call it a mental health day. Sometimes you get so lost in the world of your book, you just can’t get yourself out of the house. You barely remember to eat or sleep. You might even call in sick to work.

I know just what that’s like. I remember a time when a book (books, actually) captured me to the point where I couldn’t stop reading – literally could not stop reading – for days.

I had all kinds of things planned for my week off work. None of it happened. I spent days cocooned in my apartment, reading. When I finally emerged, I was dazed. Raw. Unfit for society.

How do you decide when it’s time to turn out the light, put your book on the bedside table, and go to sleep?

Ever have a reading hangover? You know what we’re talking about – when you stay up all night reading and the next day you’re a zombie.

Do you have a reading curfew? If you do, what kind of book makes you break your curfew? And when do you finally say to yourself, “okay, it’s time to put down my book and go to bed!”?

With Elementary back on our screens and the last episode Sherlock just aired in the U.K., there’s never been a better time to be a fan of the world’s only consulting detective.

Kaite Welsh shares five of her favorite Sherlock Holmes spin-offs.

“There’s something there for everyone,” Kaite says. “Want to see Holmes pitted against H.P Lovecraft’s monsters, or Watson as an army doctor in the First World War? Curious about what Irene Adler was really thinking during A Scandal in Bohemia?”

The more I felt lost, the more I became disinterested, and the more my rituals of reading began to break down.

“The novel I put down is widely considered the most influential Latin American novel ever,” says Rachel Goldberg.

“But that doesn’t mean I found it enjoyable or knew what was happening. An unfortunate side effect of reading a book you can’t totally wrap your brain around is that you become a Pavlovian experiment unto yourself. You become attached to the maladies of a once normative pastime suddenly associated with something difficult and drudging.”