Monday, February 25, 2013

So Many Books!

There are just so many books to read! I’m not thinking in terms of the phrase “so many books and so little time.” I’ve got all the time in the world because I’m not in a race to read books as quickly as possible. I’m content to take them one at a time without a deadline.

I’m thinking in terms of which one will be the next one with full recognition this is a First World dilemma. I’ve got a To-Read shelf in Good Reads, and I’ve got a wish list at Amazon, and there are even other books I’ve heard about but haven’t digitally documented. When I finish reading one book, I look at this shelf and this list and these random titles and debate which to choose, and it seems having these handy tools to help sort through my many choices does not make the choosing any easier.

I’m reading on my iPad mini through a Kindle ap, and as much as I love paper books, the ap is undeniably handy, and it allows me to keep a “stack” of books all in one place. Just by looking at the archive screen, I’ve realized how many books I’ve read in the last year: Swamplandia! By Karen Russell, The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore by Benjamin Hale, Snow by Orhan Pamuk, Night Circus, Wyrd Sissters, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, Imagine, Jesus Interrupted, The Invention of Air, Fahrenheit 451, Hello Goodbye Hello, The Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, The Swerve, Dodger, Care of Wooden Floors, Moby Duck, The Woman in White, Bossy Pants.

I had finished reading The Swerve, about the rediscovery of Lucretius' On the Nature of Things and how it affected the coming out of the Dark Ages, and I wondered aloud (and by that, I mean, I posted on Facebook) which book to read next. I listed a few options and then chose one I hadn’t named, Terry Pratchett’s Dodger. Good choice. Dodger is pure delight, fiction but with nods to non-fictional characters from history I found myself reading about on the side. I finished the book quickly and then had another choice to make.

I have been interested in The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt, but one mediocre review led me to choose Roosevelt’s You Learn by Living instead. It’s a collection of the first lady’s essays on general life subjects. At first, I was gung ho on the book and highlighted sentence after sentence as I went. Here are a few examples of Roosevelt’s advice that I found helpful:

“Your ambition should be to get as much life out of living as you possibly can, as much enjoyment, as much interest, as much experience, as much understanding. Not simply to be what is generally called ‘a success.’”

“Unhappiness is an inward, not an outward, thing. It is as independent of circumstances as is happiness. Consider the truly happy people you know. I think it is unlikely that you will find that circumstances have made them happy. They have made themselves happy in spite of circumstances.” 

“If you fail the first time then you’ll just have to try harder the second time. After all, there is no real reason why you should fail. Just stop thinking about yourself.” 

“Just stop thinking about yourself.” Wise woman, that Eleanor. But somewhere about half-way through these essays, she lost my interest. Some of her advice came from a dated setting, and she began to repeat herself so much that my mind wandered back to my wish list and what other book I might enjoy more.

You know, having access to digital books is like having a remote control that allows you to immediately change channels. So, I have given up on You Learn by Living for now and switched channels to George Saunders’ Tenth of December, and so far I am not disappointed or distracted or thinking back on the wish list or that Good Reads shelf with tasty looking books to dip into.

It really is a First World problem to fret over which book to read next, knowing you have access to all the world's libraries at a single click—that's how easy it is to book shop impulsively at Amazon or iTunes. Most of the world's population doesn't have it so easy, so I feel a little silly devoting an entire post to this issue. Eleanor Roosevelt would be disappointed, I suspect.

As penance, I'll share this and encourage you to watch the documentary at PBS—it seems reading books is as essential as food, air, and water:


Susan Martins Miller said...

I'm in the middle of The Flight of Gemma Hardy. If you haven't read that one, it's list-worthy.

Scout said...

Thanks, Susan. I've added it to my wish list.