The joy — and sorrow — of books

Jeff Jacoby wrote a lovely column that I’m sure will resonate with many of you, entitled “A Slow Reader’s Lament.”   In it, he talks about the ineffable joy of owning wonderful books, and the concurrent frustration that comes with lacking the time to read all of them:

But above all there was the delight of anticipation. I snapped up books that intrigued me, that I thought would be good reads, that got great reviews. Alas, I was like a kid whose eyes are too big for his stomach: I kept helping myself to more than I could possibly finish. It didn’t help that the older I got, the less time there was for pleasure reading. Or that my ability to acquire books faster than ever — hello, 1-Click! — didn’t come with the ability to read them any faster.

Ah, if only I could read books as fast as I acquire them! Even half as fast would be a blessing. Even a quarter as fast.

I suspect that Jacoby also struggles, as I do, trying to keep up with the wonderful information available on the internet.  I am a fast reader, but my reach always exceeds my grasp when it comes to reading material, whether internet articles, ebooks, or paper books.

Hat tip:  My friend Greg, at Rhymes with Right

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  • Ron19

    Thank the Lord for the Kindle samples!

    I no longer have to buy a book before deciding it isn’t worth my time, at least some of the time.

  • jj

    I’m becoming a convert to the e-book concept.  I got a tablet, upon which I promptly downloaded every app in sight – Kindle; Nook; Cobo; E-read; Project Gutenberg; Lumi-read; Watt-pad; Zinio; etc., etc.  Got ’em all.  (Never heard of half of ’em, but I got ’em!) 
    I did this for a very simple reason: we’re thinking seriously about blowing out of here, either off to another corner of this country, or out of here entirely – uncertain which.  Either way, a much smaller place.  And it dawned on me one day – with help from my spouse – that the library was going to represent a large hernia in this process, and general flat tire on the wheel of progress.  (I, being an idiot, had somehow never processed this perfectly obvious thing that she’s seen plainly for years.)  We bought some land over on another point (we already live on a point) a little closer to civilization, and found a house design we like – but it promptly had to be modified.  (“Three bedrooms – good.”  “No, three bedrooms not good, better do four.”  “Four!  What the hell for?”  “Because your %$#@%!! books need their own room, that’s what for!”  “Oh.  Yeah… guess so.”)  Or, we’re blowing out the loft above the garage and making living – i.e., library – space out of it.  Which of course necessitates an entrance to the rest of the house and a design change.
    And this becomes the issue in every house you look at, and every set of plans you consider.  Much as I like the physical feel of a book in my hand, it would be really nice to have the library consist of a small stack of little cards sitting on a shelf, the whole thing capable of being transported in an empty Skoal Bandit can – or downloaded into a computer for safekeeping.  This isn’t going to happen completely, there will still be (probably) at least 1,500 or so that haven’t been scanned and never will be unless I do it myself, which I ain’t; so I’ll have to keep them.  But that’ll be a lot more manageable.  That can be stashed around the house and not require a dedicated room.
    I love books, but in quantity they’re pesty.

  • Beth

    I, too, love books.  Currently in the process of cataloging what we have so I can fill in the gaps.  Since we began homeschooling using a classical curriculum, I have found that I learned little in my 16 years of formal education.  Doing my best to make up for lost time….ah, but there’s the rub, eh?  Time.
    Time to read and knowing what is worth your time.   Am I wrong to be suspect of the NYT Bestsellers list? Just because a book is on the NYT Bestsellers list does not mean that it is worth my time?  If mainstream media is so biased to the left, I think the their book recommendations can have the same bias.  I don’t give much thought or time to current fiction.  If it is highlighted here at the Bookworm, I look closely and have many times jumped on board–thanks for all the suggestions.  Am currently enjoying–and learning so gosh darn much–from Jonah Goldberg’s Tyranny of Cliches.  I would appreciate any recommendations for truthful history books–so much junk out there.
    I love books.  Never too late to self-educate!

  • Ron19


    The second last time I moved, I got a letter of commendation from my kids’ high school for donating over 2,000 books.

  • Beth

    Oh, to inherit books!   No, I am not planning on moving anytime soon so our library can grow.  Recently we were able to add several reference books and a couple of classic novels.  A fellow homeschooler heard a neighbor bemoaning that the East St. Louis high school she works for just received their state grant to completely refurbish the school library….but that means what they had on the shelves would have to be disposed of.  My friend jumped at the chance and offered to be a go-between–from school to dump.  Needlesstosay, nothing will be sent to the dump.  Our little gang of radical parent educators have scoured through the stacks and come away with some great adds to our own home libraries.  Funny thing, so many of the books have never even been opened let alone read….  Such incredible waste. 

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  • jj

    History of what, Beth?  Where’s your area of interest?

  • Beth

    Hi jj–my interests currently lie in American history and this is mainly due to what my children are studying in school.  Columbus through the Revolution.  But I really just like history in general.  I’ll read just about anything.  Any favorite authors you want to recommend?

  • Ymarsakar

    Books were considered worth more than a king’s ransom back in the ancient days. Oh how times have changed.

  • Earl

    Oh, how this resonates…..
    My parents “decorated” with books, and never had a TV in the house while we were growing up.  I caught the bug and if I don’t stop myself, buy books constantly.  More than I can read, but I love them as objects, as aspirations, and when I finally get around to reading that one…as a fount of wisdom about something else I know little or nothing about.
    So, WE “decorated” with books, and we’ve been downsizing since 2004, when we left a house of 3300 square feet for one of 2400, continuing in 2009, when we moved to a rental of 1400 square feet and had to store 70 boxes of books in the garage for 18 months.  Now we live in 1990 square feet, and I’ve had to rid myself of 24 boxes…’s very painful.
    I’m selling books on E-Bay (via a local charity who does all the work in exchange for 25%), giving books to my alma mater, to the local church school, the nearby parochial high school, friends and relatives, and even donating them to the ARC store (keeping photos and price guides from so I get part of the price back from Uncle Sam!).  I’m having a hard time, and my office is a bloody mess, but I’m gradually getting it done.  And still….I have too many books.  I bought three at the Dollar Tree on Friday – Gerald Ford by Douglas Brinkley, First Sunday in April: The Masters, and The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun by JRR Tolkein.  A dollar each – how could I pass them up!?
    I have a Kindle….I use it to read National Review, and I have a hundred or so (free) books on it.  But, I like “books”….can’t help it.