I think it started when I was young, say kindergarten, and turned into a full-blown issue at age seven or eight. I don’t know whether my parents were worried that I would ruin my eyesight or relieved that it wasn’t something worse.
Whether I was sprawled out on my bed or curled up on our rust-hued, floral print sofa, I always had my nose tucked in a book. I have memories of running away with Claudia and her little brother Jamie from E.L. Konigsberg’s The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, finding my voice with Louis from E.B. White’s The Trumpet of the Swan and consoling Peter while I dealt with my own Fudge in Judy Blume’s Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. I’d scour the Scholastic Book Club flyers tagging my selections with the hope my mom would cave and buy me the latest book du jour. Rainy afternoons spent at the public library, breathing in the scent of old books, walking up to the counter with a stack of books tucked under my chin, promising my mom I’d read every last one before the return date while she had to bargain with my brother to select just one book to read.
Fast forward to the post-collegiate job at Barnes & Noble when the thought of being able to read books for non-school purposes delighted me to no end. I would peruse the aisles under the guise of restocking shelves, casually reading the backs of books, noting which books I would take home. Latest Oprah’s Book Club selection? No. The Professor and the Madman? Yes. It was a hobby kept in check thanks to student loan payments – a stack of books bought and collected by my nightstand, but diligently read before the next big purchase.
A decade passed and technology entered the equation.
First the iPhone. With its Notes application, the iPhone is my repository of “books to read” that I add to whenever I read The New York Times Book Review or a friend raves about a recent page turner . The list grows and grows. I have a nagging suspicion that even if I could sit all day and read uninterrupted, I’d never make it through the list of current books I want to read and the classics that I need to read. Whether or not I get through it all, at least I can take comfort in the knowledge I’ll never lose the name of an author or book title.
Then came the beloved e-reader that I held at arm’s length for years. It seemed like cheating since I love the feel of a real book in my hand, seeing the various spines on my bookshelf, picking it up and turning it over, leafing through the pages, counting down the number of pages left in each chapter before the book would end or on the rare occasions the inverse: how many pages left until I finished the dud. I caved owing to a sense of environmentalism (think of the trees I’d be saving) and my tech geek sensibilities (heaven forbid I become a Luddite).
All these pivotal reading milestones were leading up to this moment.
My nightstand book stack is out of control. The instant gratification of Amazon’s Kindle store and the Daily Deal is adding books to my queue at such a rapid rate that I’m staging my own intervention by way of this post.
Time to take step back and stop the never-ending game of catch-up. Time to read the books in my collection. It really is a delightful “problem” to have. One that my seven-year old self would marvel at – oodles of choices and a quiet evening with no plans. Think I’ll curl up with The Art of Travel or maybe Travels with Myself and Another.
Ah, decisions, decisions.