— Am I the Only One?

I love reading, but I get serious book anxiety—here's how I cope

When I was growing up, my anxiety disorder affected me in lot of ways, but never when it came to reading. I read everything, but fantasy novels were always my favorite. Give me a badass woman knight with a talking cat, and I’d be content for hours.

In college, fantasy took a backseat to my new literature love: Shakespeare’s plays. I became a hardcore Elizabethan nerd, and changed my major to study Shakespeare and his history almost exclusively. When I finished my BA, I looked back on my reading lists and felt insecure: I’d done so much in my specific area, but there were so many classics and different time periods that I hadn’t read. I felt like an English major fraud.

I had been looking forward to the freedom of graduation, of getting to catch up on books I had missed out on while I read the complete works. But once I was actually graduated, I felt completely overwhelmed with my To Be Read list. As my stack of TBR books grew higher, my anxiety climbed along with it.

I’m one of those compulsive used book buyers, so I had shelves of books I hadn’t read yet. Plus I had so many books that friends had lent me that I hadn’t gotten to while I was in school. I became totally freaked out about choosing what to read next: was Moby Dick my top priority? Could I even call myself a book nerd if I’d never read To The Lighthouse?! How was I supposed to suppress the urge to re-read all of Tamora Pierce?!!

For a while, reading anxiety crippled my book life. I panicked, and got stuck and wouldn’t read anything. Or I’d try to read five books at once and make zero progress. I couldn’t open a book, read it, and enjoy it all the way through — whenever I tried to, worries would start nagging at my mind, pulling my thoughts away from the story.

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