Buy Less, Read More?

On the weekend I visited my parents. My mum was reading one of her books for the third time. She had read everything in her library at least twice and had nothing new to read.

booksI don’t have that problem. I have a few bookcases and two large cupboards with bowing shelves full of mostly unread books. When I got home from my parents’ place I tried to go through them to sort out things I’d be unlikely to read, but I found few I was willing to cull.

I WANT to read them all. I bought them over many years because they interested me. But I have a problem with time. I don’t have as many opportunities to read as I would like and yet I continue to find more and more books to add to my growing collection.

Why do I keep buying?
One reason is that I don’t want to miss out. Some of purchases are remaindered or liquidated stock. Others are second hand. They aren’t things you can put aside to buy at a later date. Their availability is limited. While I probably won’t read a new purchase immediately, at least it’s there for me to read when I’m ready.

A second reason is my wide ranging and regularly changing interests. For a few weeks I’ll want to read about the space programme and will find a few books about that subject. And I’ll read one or two before moving on to something else, leaving the rest of the books in my to-be-read-later pile.

books2That “something else” may be literature, and I’ll pick up a book or two that has alleged literary merit, fully intending to read something of “quality”, but then I’ll struggle through the first choice, quenching any ambition to read the others (at least for a few months). This also creates the disadvantage of slowing down my reading. It dampens my enthusiasm, ridding me of that “can’t wait to get back to it” drive that ensures I’ll read at every available opportunity. On rare occasions I’ll eventually put the book aside only half read – but that’s something I really want to avoid.

Why do I bother with these “literary” works? Because I’m hoping to come across a gem, something that makes the disappointments worthwhile and surely my own writing can’t be harmed by exposure to “the greats”. And even the books I struggle with usually have moments of recognisable quality.

As well as the above “reasons” for book buying, occasionally I’ll discover the author of a series of books. At Christmas I came across Joan Aiken’s Wolves of Willoughby Chase. It’s a book I remember from childhood, not through reading it, but possibly through a TV or radio adaptation. I found a copy in a Wagga Wagga bookshop and enjoyed it so much I tracked down all of the sequels in the series. I’ve now read a few of them, but the rest have been put aside for later while I try to catch up on other things.

My current reading projects include Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, Zadie Smith’s collection of essays Changing My Mind and At Risk by former MI5 boss Stella Rimington.

SVThe Satanic Verses is one of those “literary” books that I find a struggle to read but I’m determined to get through it. It’s a book I first started maybe 20 years ago and gave up on. This time I want to make sure I finally get to the end. I’ve past the half-way point and have given myself the luxury of taking a break to tackle something easier and more interesting: the Stella Rimington book, an authentic thriller (I naively assume,considering the author’s background) about British security services discovering and trying to prevent a planned terrorist attack.

The Rimington is another purchase (second hand) that led me to buy more of her books, all taking their place in my to-be-read-later collection. And that is often why I continue to buy: one good book leads to another…

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7 Responses to Buy Less, Read More?

  1. 7cakes says:

    I’m definitely a believer in buying and owning the classics. And then reading the good ones over and over. I don’t know if that’s the best way, but I do it =D

    • Onesimus says:

      I have a good collection of 19th Century classics (and some prior, like Austen). I’ve read a few but have a long way to go. Maybe the last was Wuthering Heights – NOT a favourite book. I found it quite a chore to get through.
      The first “classic” I read was Tess of the Durbervilles. At the time I found that difficult too but overall found it a very rewarding exeprience. At the end of the Bronte book all I felt was releif that it was over.

      I could see myself turning to Tess again one day, but WH is definitely in my not-to-be-read-again category.

      • 7cakes says:

        See, I’ve never read Tess of the Durbervilles or Wuthering Heights! Probably need to… So far my favorite classics have been The Count of Monte Cristo (that is a must-read!), A Tale of Two Cities, and Pride and Prejudice.

  2. Marleen says:

    I intend to read [i]The Satanic Verses[/i] too. I also have [i]Shame[/i] (and more) on my shelves. I have actually started [i]Midnight’s Children[/i] (which you recommended when I told you of my interest in Rushdie), but I found it difficult (as you predicted). Then I bought a used book (the only way to get it) that Fareed Zakaria said is the best version of that story, which is a classic Indian epic (which I didn’t know was the same thing but figured out was largely the same thing as I read it); I finished that and started back into Rushdie’s version (finding it easier and more enjoyable then, but I still didn’t finish it). Yeah… I don’t read novels.

    • Onesimus says:

      If you found Midnight’s Children difficult you’ll find what “difficult” REALLY is with Satanic Verses. It’s not a book I’d recommend to anyone unless they have a specific interest in Rushdie, or if they want to see what the Fatwa fuss was about.

      I was writing a longer reply but decided to cut most so I can incorporate it in a short post about Satanic Verses.

  3. Marleen says:

    I was supposed to read Wuthering Heights in high school. Cliff Notes are good.

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