One big pet peeve I have as a reader: I have a strong aversion to ending reading sessions mid-chapter. If I start a chapter, I want to be able to finish it. If I’m feeling pressed for time and doubt I’ll be able to read a whole chapter, I veer toward not beginning that chapter at all.
This strikes me as a little strident, but there we are.
Putting down a book mid-chapter leaves me feeling unsettled. I like a completed task. I like closure. A half-read chapter feels like putting leftovers in the fridge before covering them in saran wrap (ahem, you know who you are). They get crusty and stale and stinky, or else they stink up the rest of the fridge (tuna salad: enough said).
This realization came to me while reading Jacqueline Woodson’s memoir in verse, Brown Girl Dreaming. The book is divided into five sections, each filled with short poems, some only a page long. When I began reading Woodson’s memoir, I was having trouble settling into a book. I’d begun and put down so many that I began to worry I might never get through a book cover to cover ever again.
What worked so well for me: Reading Brown Girl Dreaming allowed me to read in very short increments – even as few as 10 minutes at a time – and still achieve the feeling of closure I crave. I could read one poem, or five or ten, and still feel immersed in a beautiful moment of connection, of clarity, of inspiration.
Her language and images, clarity and insights are so exquisite that I found myself reading in longer and longer increments. I couldn’t wait to pick the book up again and didn’t want to put it down simply because I’d come to the end of a poem or section.
Reading Brown Girl Dreaming hasn’t resolved my craving for reading whole chapters at a stretch. But it did remind me of two qualities that keep me reading so I’m less likely to fret over chapter length and just sit myself down to read: eloquent, sensory language and a narrative that opens my heart and makes me think.
What keeps you reading?