In Case Nobody Else Has Told You, It’s Okay to Have Fallen Behind on Your TBR List This Year

Have I reread the same 3 books all year? Maybe.
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To say that 2020 has been an absolute, mind-numbingly bizarre, chaos cluster of a year would be a vast understatement.

From the literal first week of January, it feels as if we’ve been hit back to back with tragedy, pain, fear, anxiety, and tragedy again—each time with barely enough time to process before something else incredibly inconceivable happens. There’s a reason why doomscrolling has been added to the list of things to abstain from in order to save your mental health. We, as a collective, have been dealing with an inordinate amount of grief and heaviness.

With all this in mind, books have undoubtedly become a safe space for me: for escapism, for hope, and for those blissful moments of inspiration that make everything feel okayeven if it’s just for a moment—but if there’s one thing I’ve undoubtedly fallen behind on, it’s reading new books.

Don’t get me wrongI’ve managed to discover many wonderful new titles this year and am blessed even more so with the opportunity to write about them, when it’s possible, but if I were to walk past my bookshelf right now? My hands would, without fail, gravitate towards the well-worn fantasy books that I’ve devoured since my middle school days, instead of the shiny new books waiting (i.e. begging) to be read.

It’s not intentional, I promise. The same habit has bled into my TV/film watching habits (thank God for Spongebob reruns), gaming choices (can we say Super Mario and Animal Crossing ftw?) and even the socially-distant activities my friends and I decide to partake in. The flavor my escapism has taken this year is nostalgia; yearning for the simpler times of childhood or the years of wacky but lighthearted creativity. The years before all of … *gestures wildly* this.

As far as books are concerned, one of the most beautiful things about them is discovering a new story full of twists, turns, and surprises. But in a year like 2020? My brain seems to have reached its capacity (and its patience) for surprises.

Regardless of how good or bad they may be, the pleasant excitement that used to come with diving into the unknown with a new book has been replaced with a tense dread that makes each reading experience more stressful than it needs to be. It’s not the book’s fault, either. So many titles and authors who published this year deserve immense love, and when you next get the chance, please do peruse the fantastic titles that have released in 2020.

But for those of you who’ve been unable to do anything except return to a beloved book fave, know that it is perfectly okay. For those who started out with ambitious “to-be-read” book lists but now can’t find enough mental space to focus on anything other than making it through the day, know that it is perfectly okay.

The reason new things have felt so anxiety-inducing this year is because the entirety of 2020 has been new—and in not-so-positive ways. Uncertainty has become synonymous with 2020, and for many people, the only place they can have some semblance of control over this is through the fiction they consume.

And if the only things you’ve been able to consume this year are reruns, childhood mainstays, and sentimental reads, know that it is not because you’re a bad person, or a failure by any means. It’s because these things are familiar.

Familiarity is comfortable, and if there’s one thing right now that we’ve all been desperately yearning for, it’s comfort.

So take the time you need to hold space for yourself and indulge in the things that lift you up, rather than add to your unease. And know that those books on your “to-be-read” list haven’t been forgotten altogether; like all things, they’ll be best appreciated once you’re able to fully hold space to feel, love, and engage with them.

(featured image: JivkoM on Shutterstock)

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Image of Larissa Irankunda
Larissa Irankunda
Larissa Irankunda (she/her) is an East African star child and writer based in Brooklyn. Fantasy and Science-Fiction are her first loves, and her writing focuses on amplifying diversity and inclusion in storytelling. You are most likely to find her nose-deep in a good book, or professing her love for Danny Devito and Jeff Goldblum on the interwebs.