Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Quot Libros, Quam Breve Tempus

P.C.:

There must be a lot of people who, like this blogger, read more than one book at once. Perhaps there is one in the bathroom, one on the bedside table, one for the daily commute. There are books that are left unfinished but sit there as guilty reminders of failed endeavours; in my case a history of the Thirty Years War, which was so plodding and detailed that I gave up somewhere around the arrival of Gustavus Adolphus. There are difficult, stylised novels that one knows one should read but can only manage a few pages at a time; hardbacks that are interesting but too heavy to lug on the train; thrillers that are good page-turners but are saved for long plane trips.

The pleasure of a Kindle is that many fat books can be contained within one slim device. But in this blogger's case, it has made many things worse. The ease of ordering books on my e-reader means that I am tempted to buy more. Yet I am even less likely to complete any of them, given how easy the device makes it to switch from one book to another. When "Mao's Great Famine" becomes too depressing, I've found it all too enticing to switch to George R.R. Martin's "Game of Thrones" saga; when Mr Martin's books get silly (all those dynasties and monsters), it is time to educate myself with Ian Morris's magisterial "Why the West Rules—for Now" (reviewed by The Economist here). And my reluctance to carry a £110 device on the tube, where it might be dropped or stolen, means I use my Kindle mainly at home or on plane flights.

So whereas in the old days I might have been tackling two or three books at a time, it is now six or seven. And the feeling of guilt only builds; will I ever finish any of them?

Well, that settles that. Not that I was in any danger of buying an e-book reader anytime soon, but gods know I have a couple dozen dead-tree books on my bedside table and bookshelf waiting resignedly for their turn to be read, so I will use this cautionary tale to fortify my resolve. Where's a mysterious benefactor when you need one? I need to get paid to sit at home and read for pleasure if I'm ever going to get all these done before I die.

1 comment:

Ted Garvin said...

My strategy is to only get books from the library, since I am more likely to read a book with an expiry date on it. Books I buy or download will sit on Mt. ToBeRead forever. I only buy the book if I want to keep it for posterity (my heirs will get a capital library).