Thursday, April 2, 2009


One thing my mother was very good at was figuring out how to entertain four kids without spending much money. She knew every food manufacturer in town that offered tours with free samples at the end. She knew where all the best parks and playgrounds were. Most importantly, she knew how to make the most of our neighborhood library. When we were very small, it meant taking us to the library for story time, and checking out picture books for us. When we were a bit older, and could read on our own, we waited with keen anticipation for the big day when she finally decided we were ready for our very own library card.

On one of our weekly library forays, when I was about eight years old, I happened to pick up a book called All-of-a-Kind Family. I started reading it that evening after supper, and kept at it until my eyes grew heavy, then I put it aside and got ready for bed. That's when it happened. The book actually spoke to me! I was lying in my bed, trying to get to sleep, when suddenly I heard the book calling my name. I tried to ignore it, but it was very persistent. It kept tempting me by saying things like "Aren't you curious? Don't you want to know what the kids in the book are up to now? Aren't you dying to know what will happen next?" Eventually I gave in, and got up out of bed. This became a regular occurrence from that point on, and a bit of an irritation to my parents, who had to keep returning to my room at night to turn off the lights. Some of the books were memorable, some were not, but I will never forget that one. The very first one that actually called my name.

Back in those days, it never occurred to me that I might run out of time before I ran out of books. So, for most of my life I have felt obligated to finish every book I started, unless it was really and truly terrible. It is just of late that I have begun to question that practice. The stacks of books that I want to read are beginning to take over my house, and there just isn't time for them all. When I get mired down in a book I don't particularly enjoy, and have to drag myself back to it each time, the piles seem to mushroom as they wait for my return. Finally I had to ask myself "Why?" Who says I have to waste my time finishing a book that's just OK, when there are still millions left that are fabulous? So, just last week I made an addition to my rules for good living. I will give each book a fair shot at capturing my attention, reading at least a quarter of the way through, and then I will set it aside for a bit. If, by that point, it hasn't spoken to me at all, if there is no voice calling me to please, please come back... Well, then I must admit that our relationship is over and done with. It is time to go our separate ways!

P.S. Many thanks to for the above image.


Teri in CO said...

Wow! I just recently came to that same conclusion myself! And my stacks of books to read still keep multiplying! I've also decided that it's okay to skim a book... (not a novel but an "informational" book)... and I still enjoy certain books that way!

jules said...

I remember reading a book that I definitely didn't get into. I put it away on the shelf. Many many years later, I picked it back up and behold! I couldn't put it down that time until I was through. Sometimes, even the bad books get read all the way through just to see how it ends. Then after, I think, jeez, that was a terrible book but I'm glad to finish, either to find out how it ends, or so I'm free to move on to another book.

Hill Country Hippie said...

When I first moved to Wimberley last year, everybody was talking about a book called Depletion and Abundance, by Sharon Astyk, so I ordered it. But when I tried to read it, it was just too scary, too out there. Now, a year later, I've picked it up again, and just like you said, I'm eating it up! It makes so much sense now. I think I just needed this year in my very liberal surroundings to get educated and a bit radicalized, before I was ready to take it all in.

musingegret said...

Excellent new philosophy to adopt! Ties into a story that John Travolta was telling on Inside the Actor's Studio about living one's life as an art. He said that when he first got to Manhattan and very poor he realized that his resources could be spent in many ways and he chose the experiences that 'filled him up the most.' He would spend his hard-earned dollars to watch a foreign film (Bergman or Fellini for example) rather than a current Hollywood one. He chose to read the NY Times every day and completely rather than spend the same time reading a flavor-of-the-week novel. I think you're refining your 'art of reading.' And you and jules are on target about that experience of a book speaking to us when the time is right. "When the student is ready, the teacher appears", hmmmm? BTW, got my book yesterday and once again, thank you so very much.

Hill Country Hippie said...

You are most welcome!