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Finding time for books

October 23, 2011

Is it possible to read too much?

One of the joys of working at a public library service is being introduced to so many great books. Customers and staff make recommendations, displays show off the glossy new beauties, and all sorts of enticing volumes come streaming through the returns chutes. Many of them end up coming home with me. I’m limited mainly by my ability to carry them. And as my husband also works at a public library, he regularly brings home interesting finds as well. As you can imagine, I generally have a fair stack of volumes waiting to be read. But at the moment I have even more books than usual. I was given a large book-voucher from one of Melbourne’s best independent bookshops as a farewell present by my former colleagues near the end of last year. I’d used a bit of the voucher already, but I still had a substantial amount to spend which would expire if I didn’t use it. I couldn’t let that happen. So I had to go to Readings and buy myself four beautiful new books.

And looking at my enormous pile of unread books today I briefly wondered if my books might be eating my life…

You see, I really struggle to keep up with all the things I want to get done in my life. Sometimes it takes me days or even weeks to fold and put away my laundry. Floors may go unswept for months at a time. I’m sorry to admit that friendships sometimes get neglected. Many a blog-post goes unwritten. And even paintings I dream of painting go unpainted for years on end. Bills are paid, meals are made, shopping is grabbed and chores are ticked off in a hectic and seemingly un-endingly exhausting scramble. But slowly and surely, no matter how tired or busy I am, I always continue to devour books.

So, I very briefly wondered, might the amount of reading I do be unhealthy? Could I actually be a readaholic? Could this be an area of my life that is “out of balance”? Should I cut back on the books?

No. The answer was instantly clear. Reading has been and will continue to be a constant and major activity in my life because I gain so much from it. I can read when I’m too tired to do anything else because reading recharges my batteries. I can read when I’m feeling down because reading brings me inspiration. I can read when I’m busy and stressed because reading calms me down and helps me figure things out. Books fire my imagination, they give me ideas, they get me excited, they teach me new things. Some books allow me to escape from my life while others help me re-focus with renewed clarity. Books have earned their central place in my life.

I think I can strike a better balance though. I will try to read a little more selectively, and reject books far more ruthlessly. If they don’t grab me within the first few pages or chapters, they will return to the library unfinished. Some of the library books in my current book-stack will be returned unopened. And in future, rather than picking books willy-nilly, I’m going to try a more structured approach, reading more based on recommendations and reviews rather than being dazzled by jazzy book-jackets. I may even add an annotated books-to-read list to my reading journal.

Yes, I’m going to try to read smarter, but not less. The dishes and the dusting will just have to keep on waiting. But I will have to do something about making more time for friends and for painting…

My current "book stack" (with my spiral bound reading journal at the base)

One Comment leave one →
  1. October 25, 2011 7:18 am

    I love that, “read smarter, not less.” I definitely have become more picky about the books I select these days. I’m just not willing to waste time on a book if I know I will get to the end and wish I’d spent my time on something else. And I’m glad I’m not the only one who “forgets” to sweep, among other things, because she’s caught up in a good book!

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