It recently dawned on me I’ll die before I get to every book on my reading list. These days, what with the day job, new daddy duties, and writing my own books, I don’t have as much reading time as I once did. Indeed, I find I hardly have the mental stamina in the evenings to get through five pages. I’ll read several paragraphs and realize none of what I’ve read has actually sunk in. All the while, the number of books on my bedside table continues to grow. If you were to take a look, you would find:
The Lost City of Z (David Grann)
Have Mercy On Us All (Fred Vargas)
Seeking Whom He May Devour (also by Vargas)
A Bridge Too Far (Cornelius Ryan)
Inferno (Max Hastings)
The Woman Lit by Fireflies (Jim Harrison)
The Farmer’s Daughter (also by Harrison)
Churchill: A Life (Martin Gilbert)
The Blue Nile (Alex Moorehead)
The Desert War (also by Moorehead)
Carte Blanche (Jeffery Deaver)
I should say not all of these are actually on my bedside table out of fear the stack might collapse and kill me while I sleep. They’re scattered throughout the house. Some people have closets filled with shoes; I’ve got shelves overflowing with books—and still I continue to purchase more, even though there are plenty I have yet to read. Is this a sickness? An addiction? I know I’m not alone. I also know it drives my wife bananas. “Why,” she asks, peering at me over a stack of hardcovers, “must you buy so many books?”
I simply love books . . . they bring me comfort. I love being surrounded by them. In my home office, I have three bookshelves stuffed to capacity with biographies, histories, and thrillers, including a couple of autographed books by Stephen King and William Peter Blatty. On one shelf, I have multiple editions of Ian Fleming’s original Bond novels, including six British first editions published by Jonathan Cape. They’re cherished possessions.
I’ve read ninety percent of the books I own—but that remaining ten percent nags at me. It’s because of this I no longer waste my time struggling to finish books I find boring. In a recent blog post, The Literary Man asked when is it okay to give up on a book. My answer is as soon as you realize you’re bored. Life is too short to stick with disappointing reads. If you’re served a crummy meal in a restaurant, you don’t continue eating it. You ask the waiter to bring you something else.
With all the books I still have to conquer—and the list continues to grow—I place high expectations on my hardcover and paperback entertainment. If I’m not hooked in the first 100 pages, chances are I’m ditching it. Our time here is limited, and I’ve got a lot of books to read.