I’ve noticed with increasing dismay a gap widening between the number of books purchased and the number of books read within my small apartment. My bookshelf is filled to the point of drooping; my window sill and dresser are similarly adorned; and a cardboard box of “book overflow” has taken up residence on the floor in front of my closet. It’s not the quantity of books that I find troubling–in fact, I’m happiest when surrounded by books, be they in bookstores or libraries or my home–it’s the fact that I have no longer read the majority of them.
I used to be an avid reader. And while I never read quickly, I read constantly; and once I started a book, I always finished it–no exceptions. Sometime after college my good reading habits began to deteriorate: my pace slowed and I frequently began books without seeing them through to the end. I no longer kept my reading journal. Despite always carrying a book with me, the truth is I’m the shell of the reader I once was, full of good intentions and living in an apartment of unread books. It breaks my heart.
Today as I looked around my apartment, I had an enough-is-enough moment and decided that until I read every book I owned I could not purchase any others for myself, exceptions being the new David Mitchell and Suzanne Collins books due out this summer (I’ve been waiting for them for so long!). Libraries are off-limits except for browsing, movies, or music. I can buy books for others.
With the growing popularity of the Kindle and iPad, my heart aches for the book industry. I know many people have many arguments in favor of e-readers, but I can’t see the appeal. The weight of the book, the feel of its pages, its smell–these are all part of the reading experience to me, and it’s this treasured experience that I have let slip away from me. It takes me months to read a book because I no longer give it the time it deserves, fragmenting its narrative into my daily commute of train and bus stops. I am not respecting the book I am holding, nor am I giving the many worlds untouched and scattered about my apartment their due.
Is it worse to read books you never hold or to never read the ones you do?
I’m afraid that it may be the latter, which is why I cannot let my current habits continue. I love reading and I love a challenge, so here we go. I’ll be back soon with a full inventory of my personal library to give perspective to this undertaking and serve as a checklist of sorts.
Currently Reading: Tinkers by Paul Harding