I’ve posted on big books before. I’m reading one right now. Many large books have had profound cultural influence, and something about their very girth suggests canonicity. I have never read One Thousand and One Nights. It is an amazingly influential collection of stories from storied Arabia. Perhaps it was because I grew up in a small town, or more likely it was because my parents weren’t readers, the only big book to which I was introduced at a young age was the Bible. The problem with this is that once you become locked into a greedy nine-to-five you’ll find your reading time limited. Big books demand a lot of time, and you have to try to fit them in with your larger projects. At least those of us who write do.
Don’t get me wrong—I’ve read many large books over the years. My point is that if you missed the opportunity when you were in school, which got out around three, or in college with its immensely variable schedule, you’ll find yourself with limited time to catch up on the classics. Not only are some of them large like One Thousand and One Nights, but there are also so very many of them. I recently admitted to neglecting Hemingway until far too late. Hemingway doesn’t stand alone in that regard. I did manage my way through Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace, but that was largely during a period of unemployment. I’ve tackled a few of the longer Dickens novels and some of Neal Stephenson’s books. I’d love to read more, but work is a time miser. And there’s so much to do around the house on the weekend.
So I wonder when I’m going to find the time to read One Thousand and One Nights. How do you record a book on your Goodreads challenge that takes over a year to read? Moby-Dick, in its lissome five-hundred pages, took me months to get through, and it’s a page-turner (for me, anyway). Since I often blog on the books I read, not having anything to report for months at a time throws me off. Our world is increasingly driven by metrics, and a book with the word “thousand” in the title is intimidating to those with so little free time that they must awake early to preserve it. The problem isn’t with the classics, though. The problem is with a world that won’t slow down enough to let you read the very documents upon which it was founded. I could use about a thousand and one nights just to read.