I went to the library the other day and took out two books. I know this was a mistake, but I couldn’t help myself. You see, if I try reading two or more books at once, I inevitably get myself confused and overwhelmed and I quit reading everything all together. This is essentially the story of my reading life. I go through phases. One minute I’m voracious, going through three or four books in a month. Then it’s as though I’ve completely worn myself out and I’ll go for weeks and weeks refusing to read anything longer than a tweet.
There are nearly 130 million books in the world, according to Google, and more than 800,000 new books are published EVERY YEAR(!) in the US alone. Even if I didn’t have my one or two yearly reading droughts, the horrible fact remains: I can’t keep up!
I wish there were a sure-fire way to find books I’m going to like, some sort of guarantee that the 5-10 hours I’m about to invest will be useful or entertaining or both. I realize this is kind of cheating. How do you even know what you do like until you spend some time figuring out what you don’t like? But let’s be honest. If I’ve got 130+ million options, I’d rather skip altogether the ones I find less interesting.
My fourth grade teacher used to tell us that we should never continue reading a book that we didn’t enjoy by page 10. I might be misquoting the page number, but the point of the statement remains clear. I took this advice to heart which is why I’ve tried more than once but never gotten past the first 10 pages of “Little Women”. Then again, it was also in fourth grade that I had to read “Maniac Magee,” the first in a long, long… long line of books that I had to read in school despite not enjoying them by page one, ten, or 110. Think of all that precious book-reading time I could have been putting to good use instead of spending it skipping over large chunks of “The House of Seven Gables.”
The funny thing is, today I don’t mind reading “the classics” as much as I did back then. Being able to read them on my own time, at my own speed, makes all the difference, I guess. The fact that nobody is quizzing me the next day on how much I remember certainly doesn’t hurt either. I sure did hate reading-check quizzes.
That’s because I just can’t remember what I read. It’s a wonder I enjoy reading at all. I can barely remember the plots of books I consider my “favorites.” Words aren’t the problem. I can sing the lyrics to songs I haven’t heard in 15 years, but lines in books somehow go in one eye and out the other. Of course, I know why songs are easier to remember: repetition. Maybe if I read every book as many times as I heard every song, I’d be able to quote Shakespeare as well as Shakira. I would love to go back and reread certain books, particularly the ones I
vaguely remember liking a lot loved, but with 130 million books (and counting) to get to, I really don’t have the time!