Reading in Autumn

My room is chilly! I just got over my season’s-changing illness. I wore a sweater for the first time this season today, and I couldn’t be more pleased.

Autumn is my favorite season. I love the crispness in the air, the way leaves underfoot sound like book covers opening. The way my clothes suddenly have twice the volume they did a day ago. Scarves and hats and fingerless gloves come out. It’s a wonderful time to be a knitter.

I feel especially inspired in the fall. I think it’s because so many of my favorite novels are set in England, where it seems to me that it’s always a little colder and wetter than it is here. There is always so much to look forward to in the autumn – holidays that will never be as comfortable as you think, but for now it’s nice to imagine. Anticipated mugs of tea and hot chocolate, stews, cooking in the oven because it adds just a few more degrees of warmth to the apartment. Warm, deep colors. In my case, suddenly wanting to knit even more than usual. But most of all, curling up in a corner of the couch with a good book.

Lately I have been trying to talk about a problem. In blogs, in paper, in person. It never comes across quite right. I get laughed at more often than not, as if this is something that could only be a problem in Mirandaland, where books rein supreme. When that happens, I feel as though I’m doing the trouble a disservice. I’m not communicating properly, and I just hate that. The problem is that I don’t know what to read.

I’m panicked with indecision whenever I finish a book. I do finish them, and I do start them, but recently it’s all been somewhat frantic. I don’t know what I “should” be reading, as if there are any shoulds in the pleasure of seeing what someone else thought as your recreation. I fear I’m not reading enough classics, I’m not reading enough nonfiction, I’m not learning anything new about anything, I’m only reading mysteries, but hey, I like mysteries, and maybe I should make an ironclad list of what I read when or put it on a spreadsheet and I don’t like the way my books are organized on my shelves and there isn’t a system and what do I even enjoy any more, and is this affecting my writing and what should I take on vacation and – SLAP!

All this instead of starting a new book. I wonder what I’m avoiding, honestly. At some point, I was interested enough in all these books to buy them, find a place for them, and affectionately begin the long and tortured process of ignoring them until I read them. And then I like them, and then the agonizing process starts again. I soothe myself during all this by reading lots of internet forums. If anyone just saw a large red warning light go off, I have no idea what you’re talking about.

The first thing to do, obviously, is to stop haunting those message boards. People are swell, but I’d rather be reading, you know? (Apologies to William Finn.) I made a deal with myself that every time I felt the need to go lurk around the internet, I would pick up a book instead. That feels much better.

What does all this have to do with autumn? I think I relax in the autumn. I open outwards. I am inspired to be better at me. And maybe this year that means just letting myself read what I want to read, without thinking about what it “says” about me. I have great books and good books and fun books and lousy books on my shelves, and I have something to learn from all of them. Perhaps merely that when a human character is described as “clopping” towards Rome, I can only assume she’s on a horse at the time.

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