It’s the start of a new year and for the past few months we have been inundated with Best Of lists, especially books, music, and movies that are not to be missed.
Where is the list of books I should miss? How do we know what reading and activities we should take a pass on?
A few weeks ago I was working at my local coffee shop. There is a corner table there I love as it backs up to a wall of windows, offering the pedestrians and intersection outside in full view. It’s pretty close to the other window tables so I couldn’t help but eavesdrop on a conversation between two men a few seats over. (Ok, I’m sure I could have helped myself to not listen, but then they would take my writer’s badge away.)
They were talking about books so I leaned in even closer. I didn’t get every word but I remember being impressed that one of the men seemed to know and have strong opinions about contemporary literature. He was giving advice to his companion on what to read next when I heard him say, “add it to your skip plan.”
A few more minutes of listening and I realized he was counseling his friend to “skip” certain books as they weren’t well written or worth his time. After all, we only have so much time in the day, what with scrolling through Instagram and playing Spelling Bee.
The idea that not only can I think of what books I want to read, but also those books I don’t want to read was revelatory.
As someone who has always felt compelled to finish any book she started, this Skip concept makes me feel a few pounds lighter as the guilt evaporates and I stand up to shout: No, I will never read a Colleen Hoover book. Productivity books? Those are off my list too. So long books about cabbage soup or grapefruit diets and losing weight.
Why are these on my Skip List? Easy. Colleen Hoover may be a lovely person, but her sentences and dialogue are way too basic for me. Her tales of mysogyny and abuse may connect with some readers, but they don’t with me. (What we like to read is subjective so don’t pounce. If you like her books, then read them and enjoy.)
About productivity books…I used to devour these thinking that I wasted too much time and I should be producing much more content. It’s just in the past year that I realized my creativity has taken a dive because I’m so concerned with time blocks and todo lists. I’m going back to the days when I would spend hours in a coffee shop writing without direction. That sort of freedom isn’t given to us; we have to take it. Time isn’t always about getting things done. It should also be about thinking silly, interesting, deep, going-nowhere thoughts.
Books and what else?
What else are we allowed, no, encouraged, to put on our Skip List? Reality television comes to mind. So does most social media (except for the cute dog videos).
Here’s what I suggest you do now to save yourself wasted time and energy:
Make your Skip List.
Put all the reading, listening, exercising, etc. that you “think” you should spend time on and write them in a column the left side of a piece of paper. Then title that column Skip.
On the right side of the paper make a list of the reading and activities that you really and truly want to do this year. At the top of that column, write: Take Time for This.
Fold the paper in half and you have my permission to ignore the Skips and focus on the stuff that really interests you.
Let’s all band together to make 2024 a year when time meanders, our watches stay in the drawer, and we spend whole afternoons curled up with favorite novels or staring into the distance letting our thoughts dance and sway.