So many books, so little time

One of the maddening ironies of writing books is that it leaves so little time for reading others’. My bedside is piled with books, but it’s duty reading: books for book research, books for reviews. The ones I pine for are off on a shelf downstairs — Mary Roach

Since I was little, I have loved and enjoyed reading. Reading was never a chore especially when what you were reading was something interesting. Reading only became a chore when you had to read something for school or university and all you could see were words strung together to make a sentence but still couldn’t parse the meaning.

It was also during that time, you figured out what you liked and didn’t like to read. There have been a handful of books I couldn’t finish because they would literally put me to sleep or I would forced myself to read it but nothing stuck in my head.

I remember taking three university literature courses — 20th Century American literature, British literature and Canadian literature. Of the three, I enjoyed American literature the most. British literature was my most befuddling course. Maybe it had something to do with the professor’s delivery of the course materials. Maybe my brain wasn’t wired for the classics at the time. I still don’t think my brain is wired for the British classics. I loved Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights (I read that book in junior high) but it isn’t enough to get a solid foothold on understanding and dissecting British literature.

And while I loved my 20th Century American literature course, the one book I couldn’t get into was John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. I’ve mentioned in a previous blog the high degree of distaste I have for that book. Couldn’t get past page 11. That was it. Threw the book away. Still passed the course, though.

So, to cleanse the sour taste of being unable to read something that is considered a classic, I would go off and read something more grounded and slightly feral. That meant reading Michel Foucault and erotica. Not together. You know what I mean. Yes, I know… odd combination. That’s how I roll.

But I was pretty picky about the erotica, too. You get that way after you read enough of them. As in any genre, not all writers are the same. You click with some writers. And the ones you don’t click with… well… you don’t have to like everyone. You just have to like a few. Some stories I favoured more than others because of their ability to hook me into the scene (notice how I didn’t say ‘story’?That’s because I don’t remember any storylines) or there was some sort of shared sensibility I had with author that shone through the writing.

Post-university, I found myself not making enough time to read, just for the share pleasure of reading. I read newspapers and magazines… easily consumable copy that didn’t require more than maybe 20 minutes out of the day. But a 150-page, 200-page or 300-page book? Nah, didn’t make much time for those despite the fact I still had a habit of walking into a bookstore and buying novels that caught my eye, thinking I would read them ‘soon’. I know… pretty funny, eh?

I’m not ashamed to say that some of those books have never had their pages experience late-night maulings from me. I still have them. Not sure when I’m going to maul them. But they’re there when I want them.

However, I’m afraid they have a bit of a wait still because I have some (what I really mean is, a lot of) books that I need to read in the name of research for my writing project. Then there are two separate piles of ‘research’ books for two separate story ideas I’d like to explore after the current writing project. THEN, there is another pile I want to read just for the shear pleasure of reading. That pile is located at my bedside. You don’t want to know where my research piles are located.

It’s all organized chaos. Although something tells me I need to do some culling of the herd. I guess that means some books may never be mauled by me. But they’ll get a chance to be mauled by someone else. And that is always a good thing for a book.

So now, I have piles of books waiting to be ravished and I have a writing project that demands my attention. Throw in life and you’ve got an interesting juggling act. I suppose this is where I apply my time management skills but I think that more for the office than for life. I manage my time but it’s not rigid. Everything is fluid. For some people, that sounds like a horrible idea. For me, I don’t think so. I prioritize. Prioritizing works with fluidity. Rigid adherence to a schedule… not so much.

Can’t really complain, though. I’m surrounded by things that want my attention, and they are things I want to give my attention to. I’ll work my way through the piles of books and still have time for my writing projects. It’s not quite bliss.

But it’s damn close.