My Secret Book ListPosted: May 22, 2012
I have a confession: My Goodreads list is a lie. It’s not that there are books on there I haven’t read (okay, maybe there are some I didn’t quite finish and got the gist of with 20 pages to go), it’s that there are books I’ve read that I’ve left off. I feel weirdly guilty about this, as if Goodreads has offered this platform in good faith and I’m crafting it to my own benefit, to create a persona through a booklist. To all of 24 people. So here I am, coming clean. This is it, the most truthful book list ever. (No it isn’t either. It’s a lead-in to a long-form joke.)
About a year and a half ago, when my preschool-age son was hurling potted plants down flights of stairs and yanking framed stuff off the walls, my husband and I sought out some help that, despite our desperation, we mostly didn’t agree with. In our final meeting, after suggesting yet again we get him evaluated for all sorts of things that seemed excessive, this person told me to read a book called The Highly Sensitive Child. I’m not one for parenting books, but since this one didn’t have the word “explosive” or “defiant” in the title, I decided to go for it. None of the information in the book helped me make any real headway, nor did I think he fit the description of highly sensitive in any remarkable way, but it helped a little, especially thinking about his response to crowds and noise and generally too much information.
There was one thing that struck me, though: early in the book there’s a quiz to identify whether you should call yourself or your child “highly sensitive.” It asks questions about your response to caffeine, multitasking, the likelihood of you bursting into tears while listening to high school marching bands, and insinuates that you’ve never been one to hit the clubs at midnight. The quiz has 25 questions. When I took the quiz for myself, I answered yes to 23.
So maybe that’s why I cried uncontrollably during the intermission at Cats in 6th grade. Or why I can’t answer simple questions about whether I want ice in my drink while I’m also stirring a pot of rice. And why no one thinks I’m shy but I’ll hang around in the shadows for a year before introducing myself. Or why the mall makes me dizzy with all its smells and lights and bags and the sound of the vents going all the time. Or why I can tell you’re angry the moment I step into a room. It was kind of a watershed moment. I’d tell you my son worked his tantrums out on his own, but the more truthful explanation would be that while he grew out of most of it on his own, I also figured out how to admit that asking me for M&Ms while I’m on the phone pushes me to a limit I didn’t know I had.
Those of you familiar with this blog know I took off for three days to do yoga and study people’s obsessive need to take far too many paper napkins in cafeterias. Sometime after New Year’s I decided the best way to keep meditating was to buy some books on the topic. I bought two: one called Radical Acceptance, by Tara Brach, and another one I can’t remember and haven’t read yet by Thich Nhat Hahn. It took me three weeks to read the first book because with every affirmation I had to put the book down and walk away in order to deal with my deep-seated cynicism and ambivalence about affirmations and, in a development unrelated to the book itself, I haven’t meditated since February.
I also bought some yoga books that annoyed me almost instantly. So those can’t go on there either.
There is no Book #3, this is just a catch-all for the books I’d never put on the list. Look, there was that weekend I read The DaVinci Code. And while I have no real desire to read the Dragon Tattoo books, the Twilight trilogy, The Hunger Games, or 50 Shades of Grey, I’m not sure I’d tell the folks at Goodreads if I had. I mean, millions and millions of people are reading those books, why do their algorithms need to know about another poor slob who picked it up? At some point, the numbers on books like those are meaningless. Or maybe I’m just a snob and maybe Goodreads is a way to curate my online persona. To all of 24 people.
I never write reviews, either. I’m too bashful to feel courageous enough to organize my thoughts on one single subject like that. To have to stick to the text? Goodness, no. I admire those people who do though, because I do read them; I want to know what you think–usually. And there’s nothing I love more than the one-star reviews on Amazon, the way I love to smell the milk you think is spoiled.
Maybe I feel like I’m not pulling my weight on there–keeping my opinions to myself, hiding my true reading list. Believe me, it hurts me too, like in those annual reading challenges? It messes with my stats. But I’m happier this way, lying a little, keeping an air of mystery about me…to those 24 good people I’m connected to, many of whom don’t even use the site. And no one needs to know I skipped–sorry, skimmed–200 pages of Gone With The Wind. We’ll just keep that between us, okay?