There was a time when I read books constantly. Predominantly in bed at night, and also when commuting, or waiting around for something. Now, I hardly read books at all. I read Blogs, articles in magazines, instruction manuals, and some special interest stuff. No books though. It is not that I am short of a book to read. I have three excellent books on my bedside table, two non-fiction, and a novel that I bought last year. I also have boxes of books stored in the garage and other spaces, many unopened, save for a short perusal. I have even asked for books for Christmas presents this year, to add to the piles already surrounding me.
I still love books. Electronic readers are all very well, but for my money, you cannot replace the feel of paper, the weight of the tome, even the distinctive aroma of freshly published pages. I like the dust jackets, the photo of the author, and the outline on the inside. I even read the dedications, and introductions. I am a fan of non-fiction, though I equally like certain fiction writers. I warmed to the idea of ‘faction’ some years ago, where fictional characters are placed into real events in history, or imagined conversations and situations using real characters, attempted to solve past mysteries and legends.
I like large Atlases. It is always enlightening to pore over these maps and statistics, no matter how much you thought you already knew. Photography books, with reproductions of the photos of the famous, by the famous, making you even more sure that you will never take a good photograph; I have so many of those. If there are sequels, or serialisations, I have to have those too. What use is ‘And quiet flows the Don’, if you don’t get ‘The Don flows home to the sea’, so you can see what happened to all the characters? Years of collecting, decades of accumulation, re-reading favourites, anticipating new arrivals. How can it all disappear?
On reflection, it seems obvious. It is unfair to lie in bed reading, light on, disturbing someone who has to get up for work the next day. Sitting in another room reading, going to bed very late, that still disturbs. Try to read during the day, and no sooner have you opened to the first page, a dog’s head will appear on your lap, a soft toy clamped in his jaws. Ollie does not understand book reading. With him, it is always time to play. Go into another room in the evening, just to read a few chapters, as your wife is doing something else, perhaps watching TV, or using the computer. It soon feels anti-social, and far from the point of getting married, to share time together; to be in the same room, at the very least. I no longer commute, so that option has gone. I go to the beach to enjoy the brisk weather, and to walk the dog, not to sit and read in the sand. I have little to wait around for, as I am not working, so have no defined lulls to consider. So I must conclude that I have no time, and no opportunity for reading. I know that sounds crazy, but that’s just how it is.