Beckons the Printed Word

I have a reading problem. Perhaps you can help me with it. I blame my mother of course. She was a voracious reader (feasting on those 700+ page romance novels) and raised my brothers and I to be readers too. Thus newspapers and magazines; hard-covered tomes and soft-covered easy reads; coffee-table books and cookbooks; news feeds, emails, texts; my ever-present Kindle e-reader; even instruction manuals for God’s sake – vie for my reading time and attention. Books reach out to me with invisible hands, fluttering their crisp pages and silently screaming “READ ME!!!”.

56 - voracious

Once upon a time I had this under control.  You see, in those first childhood visits to the school library you could only check out one book at a time.  Read and return.  Read and return.  Eventually you earned the right to check out several at once.  Small piles of books began to accompany me home.

Newspapers already lived in my house.  My dad read the newspaper and nothing else, but in his day you had the morning paper and the evening paper.  Then one day I noticed Time and Sports Illustrated arrived every week in our mailbox.  More reading.  And the ever-present World Book Encyclopedia (WBE) flew off the shelf for the many school assignments that demanded it.  Here’s an early warning sign: sometimes I found myself leafing through the WBE for no reason at all.

Those innocent resources of yesteryear cemented the multi-tentacled reading monster that dwells in my house today.  Our family room is loaded with coffee table books and the complete works of Dickens (which I really need to finish someday).  Our kitchen cabinets are weighted down with ten cookbooks for every one that we actually use.  Our bedroom has a wall full of books we simply can’t bear to part with – kind of like the clothes you swear will come back into fashion someday.  Our nightstands have several put-you-to-sleep choices in their top drawers.  And our home office is so loaded I’ve resorted to “stack” instead of “display”.

It’s a delicate balance, this fanaticism for reading.  You have to limit your resources and then limit the time you give them.  Thus do I only subscribe to one magazine and one newspaper.  I follow 10-12 blogs and only those that publish weekly or less.  At any given time I’m only reading one book of fiction and another of non-fiction.  But beware that book of fiction.  If it’s really good, all other reading is kept at bay until I’ve consumed the very last page.  And then I have to scramble to catch up.

Amazon has created the ultimate temptation.  Not only can you purchase unlimited free “sample reads”, but you can subscribe to a dozen newsletters advertising new authors or popular reads or “we think you might like this” options.  It can turn into a feeding frenzy.

If there’s a rehab program to harness too much reading, I suggest the following as the first step.  Stay out of bookstores.  Keep battling the monster that has taken over your house instead.