When it comes to stuff, my general policy is, less beats more. Less stuff means fewer things to look after (meaning dust and organize) and more time to spend reading. Except … all this wonderful logic falls apart at the bookstore.
I have very little willpower when it comes to buying books.
Picture me taking a deep, cleansing breath as I type this: I have 489 books on my Nook. I won’t even hazard a guess as to how many are in my house. Suffice it to say, they number well into the upper hundreds.
You can see, then, why #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks captured my imagination. I’m always saying that I have enough books to last a lifetime, then carrying on buying more and more and still more. It’s alarming, if I’m honest. Besides the irritating amount of dusting required, I embarrassed to admit how many books I have double, and sometimes triple, editions of because I no longer know what I have.
Just one week into this challenge, I’m already noticing three interesting consequences on my reading life.
I’m spending less time looking up books I don’t have and more time reading the ones I do. I hadn’t realized how much time I spend online looking up titles I hear about and meticulously going through e-book specials trying to find hidden gems. It turns out I dedicated considerable time collecting and not as much time actually, you know, reading the books I collected.
I’m spending less time prevaricating about which book to read next and just getting on with the reading part. The feeling of overwhelm I get whenever I finish a book feels diminished. That I felt this way after finishing Brian Selznick’s The Marvels surprised me. But it makes sense. Once I finished it, I knew exactly what I was going to read next. Well, not exactly, but I had only four books to pick from my original list. Picking one out of four is – you probably won’t be surprised to hear this – quite a bit easier than picking one out of infinity.
I feel less distracted by all the books and more focused on the one I’m reading right now. This is, obviously, a corollary to items one and two. I’m beginning to wonder how often the reason I struggle to get into a new book lies completely outside the pages of that book. Could the problem be that, in some corner of my imagination, I’m thinking about what else I could be reading instead? That instead of diving in, a little voice in my head is whispering, “are you sure this is the book you want to be reading? Are you sure you’re sure?” Could all this whispering be ruining my concentration, perhaps?
Having just begun Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities, I have to say I’m struggling with it somewhat. At more than one point, I’ve had trouble penetrating the meaning of his prose. I’m not fussed, though. This is my read, and I’m sticking to it, whether I get every word or I don’t.
All this insight doesn’t mean I’ve given up reading about what books are coming out and spending time at bookstores and libraries. They are my happy place, after all. Having resolved to read these five titles, though, I feel more relaxed. I feel less consumed by what I may potentially be missing, more focused on what’s in front of me, and more committed to finding meaning in my experience of these books. And I’m learning all over again that more isn’t better; it’s just more.
Not bad lessons for living either, eh?