Reading Every Book

One day I hope to have read every book I want to have read – but there’s so many books I want to read. And there seems to be so many barriers preventing me from reading them, each one propped up by the last, I despair for my intellectual future, and cringe in shame at it’s past.

First amongst these barriers is time

Who has time to read all those books? I work eight hours a day, I have a family, my wife works part time, my son is growing fast, I have errands to run, projects to complete, a blog to maintain, dreams to build, mistakes to fix – when am I supposed to find the time to read? Is reading just a pleasurable activity that perhaps I should feel guilty about when I make time for it. Or worse yet steal time from something else? Or is that just guilt? Because reading might not be a guilty pleasure – it might have some actual value. Or is the value just for me? I’ve noticed that there are two distinct camps when it comes to the value of reading. Among the people that consider reading valuable some consider it generally valuable for ones self and the other camp considers it valuable for others. I’m not sure what camp I fall into. Heck, I’m not even sure if I consider reading valuable or else I wouldn’t feel guilty about it, would I?

Connected to the barrier of time is intelligence

Am I able to find the time to actually appreciate what it is I am reading? Of course, appreciation is a matter of intelligence. Pigs can’t appreciate pearls because they don’t have the cognitive power to imagine beauty in oyster poop when they’re up to their eyes in it. Respect is tied into that as well. Do I have the time to maintain my end of the conversation with any given author? Do I have the intelligence to enter into that conversation? Or, never mind intelligence, do I have the base knowledge to enter into that conversation?

Some people might think these question are slightly outrageous. After all, it’s just reading books. But someone, unfortunately, or fortunately, had to write that book. Someone thought what they were saying was important enough, or true enough to devote their lives to. Or if not their lives, their pride, or honor. Putting yourself out there with your feeling, your values, and your smarts, all laid out before an infinite future of judges sounds pretty brave to me. It sounds like something that demands respect. One should consider the time they can devote to the project of reading as well as what one can put into it, that is, the intelligence they can bring to bear on it.

With time and intelligence comes wisdom

Knowing what book you should read next, or ought to read next, is a choice that no one is ever ready to make, but one we have to make. Here too is something that demands respect. Your mind is like a smooth wall roughed up by the books you have read. And all those words? They stick to that wall. What sentence can the leftovers of a life of reading make? Who’s writing that sentence on the wall? Not some ghostly hand – it’s you. Sorta. You’ll have to be like a movie director when you plan your reading adventure. Time, intelligence, and all those books, are your crew. What comes out in the editing room is only sort of up to you, but for good or ill, it’s you that will get all the credit or blame.

Lastly, comes money

Perhaps, if I was wiser, I would have more money. If I had more money I could buy whatever books I liked instead of diverting my paths according to the whimsical receding floods of my income stream. But then again, maybe I’m lucky. Maybe I’m not wise enough to choose my own path. Maybe providence has guided those moldy tomes and pamphlets into my hands over the years. And maybe I can stop worrying about this all the time.

God, I hope so.

8 thoughts on “Reading Every Book

  1. Those questions about whether one is intelligent enough to even enter into conversation into author aren’t outrageous because I make them all the time and I am completely normal. I worry about it all the time which is why I feel slightly ashamed of most of my “reviews”. (I think they’re mostly tripe but I have to write them, so I do, in the hope that over a long period of time they’ll rise beyond mediocre. It doesn’t help that I think they should read as effortlessly as journal reviews which is rather ludicrous because those are written by 50 year old PhD university professor. But wtf man, I can’t help it, we all have to be a little stupid about something, right? Don’t answer that. Oh, and I’m not fishing, so no need to bolster me with some heartening words about the review writing either, it’s cool.)I don’t stress about selecting a new book at all. It may take a few minutes for me to figure out what I need but that’s it.I only felt guilty about my reading if it was hogging school work’s space. I am unshakeably confident about the value of reading literature which is art which is needed for one to be completely human. And I include the “trashy” with the edifying because all of it is necessary.I often feel overwhelmed at all the books in the world that I know I want to read; and that’s only “know”–think of all the strangers! I avoid any paths that take me down the traditional family path because then I’ll have diapers and errands.

  2. Wait… Imani’s completely normal?! ;-)In my experience, if you’re not learned or old enough to appreciate a book, you’ll realize it and put it aside. Then years later you’ll encounter it again and appreciate it. Which is a sign that you’ve grown.I think another solution to some of these worries is ignoring the new hype and being prejudiced in favour of reading old books that have become classics. Time enacts a kind of natural selection on books – if it’s still in print and much loved after 50 or 100 years, then that’s a clue that it’s worth your time.

  3. Elliot and I are on the same wavelength. I also wanted to say that I am a new fan of your blog which I found through Imani, who is, I’m fairly certain, perfectly normal. :)Heatherwww.thelibraryladder.blogspot.com

  4. Imani, don’t worry, I won’t write anything about your excellent book reviewing style. Consider it a favor from one blogger to another. In fact, I won’t even remind new readers that they can find your reviews, of whose excellence I will not tell anyone about, at imani.wordpress.com. And, you know, for all my whining about edification I too have no problem throwing in the trashy with the classic.Speaking of classics, Elliot, as always you have good advice. I always shoot for the classics. And my old art teacher would recommend we put down a painting, like you do with books, if we didn’t think we were ready to finish it. Also good advice. I’ve sort of been doing that with Aristotle. A new fan! Wow. Welcome to Upper Fort Stewart, Heather.

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