Monday, May 15, 2006

books and me

I am an avid reader. I don't feel complete unless I have a book or two at all times on hand to read. Sometimes I'll have two books going at once, but usually only one. If I find myself for some inexcusable reason without a book, I tend to panic. I need to have something to read or I go crazy. Magazines are ok as fillers--I subscribe to 6 different magazines--but they don't fulfill that basic need I have for reading material. I read magazines for information; I read books for entertainment. I don't feel the same contentment sitting in my chair with a magazine as I do with a book. Magazines are ok for breakfast and lunchtime reading and looking at pictures, but a book is far more enjoyable when sitting in my chair, or lounging on the couch in front of the fireplace, or falling asleep with in bed.

Some people I know will only read nonfiction. They are looking for enlightenment and clarification of issues and opinion about the world they live in. While I will occasionally pick up a nonfiction book (usually a history book and particularly a book about American history), my first love is fiction. I love a good story. I love to escape into the pages of a good tale well told.
I can lose myself for hours in that make-believe world created by a good writer.

I first developed a taste for books as a kid, probably 10-12 years old when I discovered the Sherlock Holmes strories of Arthur Conan Doyle. I read every one of them and when they were consumed, I moved on to other stories of the same genre. John D. MacDonald and his Travis McGee whodunits were favorites. I still have the complete collection of that series in paperback sitting on the shelf downstairs. From that early experience, you can probably tell I favor mysteries. I love trying to figure out where the clues are heading and love being surprised by the author's cleverness. Ok, so I'm easily amused. Remember, I said I read for entertainment.

I don't belong to any book clubs, preferring the freebies I can get at the library. I also get books from friends who have read them and enjoyed them and then passed them on to me. When I finish with them I pass them along to someone else. Books are meant to be read, not posessed. Although I do have few books that I won't part with, even if I never intend to read them again. Just seeing them on my bookshelf reminds me of the enjoyment I got from them. I get the titles of new books that interest me from newspaper and magazine reviews and sometimes word of mouth. I have a number of favorite authors whose complete output I have read. I am always discovering new authors whose work delights me and spurs me on to reading more of their stories.

In case you think I am overdosing on the candy of the literary world, I can assure you that I have had a healthy dose of "literature" as well. I delve into the headier stuff from time to time to exersize the intellectual lobes of my brain instead of just feeding the pleasure centers. In fact, some of those more literary offerings are the favorites I won't part with. And, of course, I was exposed to the usual fine reading from the purveyors of education, who insisted that I would be incomplete without the excrutiating experiencce of wading through the muck of unintelligble, self indulgent "art." Still, if I hadn't been bogged down by those murky maunderings at some point, I would be less capable of appreciating the books I do like to read. Honey is so much sweeter when you've tasted the brine.

I'm sure there are some readers who are overwhelmed by the reading choices out there. I know I was at one time. But I eventually realized that I would never be able to read everything ever printed, so I narrowed my focus to include only those works I know I have a resonable expectation of enjoying. To that end, I keep a list of titles and authors that helps me to decide what to check out of the library. The fact that my list is currently 9 pages long and growing, assures me that I will not run out of reading material in the near future.

So many books, so little time. A delicious dilemma, indeed.

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