Tuesday, August 4

A depressing read

So I mentioned in passing in my last post that I have a library card now. For anyone who knows me they could be forgiven for wondering why now. Why only now?

I’m a confirmed passionate and speedy reader, I love books and I love words. Even my usual defence – that I like to own them because then I can read them again whenever I want – doesn’t really work.

It may be the usually defence, but it isn’t a truthful one. The fact is that I am, and always have been terrified of libraries. Now I have no idea why and no reason to search my childhood memories for a clue so I’ll spare you that bit. I actually want to talk about reading and self esteem.

One particularly large part of my terror comes from the way I find Libraries like private members clubs. Have you ever been into a café where you got looked at funny for needing to look at the menu? For me this is a source of real anxiety. Not necessarily – in the case of the café – where I’m actually being looked down upon but where I feel I could be.

Libraries, especially my current one, are generally pleasant, helpful places and yet I couldn’t just walk in alone and ask for a card. When we got up to the counter I couldn’t talk at all. Shamed into silence Stephen had to do the talking.

I’m terrified over being judged about the books I read too. I love a good conversation about books so I don’t mind the person behind the desk offering an opinion. And to be honest I’m fine with being thought snotty because of what I read. I know I’m not, that’s fine.

What I’m terrified of is people seeing what I’m reading and thinking me inexperienced or just plain dumb. I’m terrified of them saying ‘haven’t you read that yet.’ Honestly, that is why I never bought my own copy of Hitchhikers, I waited to be given one. I’m only giving that example because I already have a copy, there are others that I’ve been to afraid to pick off the shelf.

Which brings me back to where I am now. I took two books out of the library Saturday, read them and then replaced them with two more works of fiction yesterday. I’m now half way through one. The gluttony is a result of not being able to afford books for a while and limiting myself to a snails pace. But I’m wondering: am I doing it right?

I ran into a book on Librarything. Accidentally. It’s a list of books that you should read to improve your mind with essays about them. More than just bringing up the old question of cannon again (once I was a literature student…) it gave me a guilty sickly feeling in my stomach.

This feeling reminded me at once that I wasn’t reading well enough. Perhaps I’m not even good enough to read. My library doesn’t mach the 1001 books list close enough to have an intelligent conversation. Anyone who talks to me about books will quickly learn I know nothing about them.

I stop myself, pull myself up and I realise: this is yet another way my depression and low self esteem is taking away something I enjoy. Now I’ve recognised it, can I ignore it?

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