It occurred to me the other day that I will never read all the books on my list. Only in my fifties, it’s not as if I’m knocking at death’s door, but who hasn’t been aware that that gentle rapping might come at any time? Macabre? Maybe. Realistic? Definitely. Perhaps I’m a little old to be thinking about prioritizing, but it’s pretty clear that between work, writing, and the requirements of daily life (taking the car to the shop, scheduling a dentist appointment, trying to find time for a haircut, lawn care), that something’s got to give. Work’s the non-negotiable since without it avoiding starvation (or perhaps getting medical coverage) becomes a full-time job. Best to leave that sleeping dog slumber. Then come the other three Rs: relationships, reading, and writing. After that the time left to divide is pretty petty indeed.
My reading list grows almost daily. Reading is a form of relationship. I’ve recklessly written to writers after finishing their books, convinced that they’d written it to me. I’ve also read material that, when done, makes me regret the time spent. Still, I don’t, I can’t give up. Writing is a form of giving back. The other day an editor who’d accepted one of my fictional stories wrote that she couldn’t stop reading it. It doesn’t matter that the magazine doesn’t pay—I’ve received back already what I’d planned for all along. A kind of relationship with a reader. If WordPress is to be believed, there are some followers on this blog. Most think I write too much, and some, perhaps, too little. Writing, however, like reading, is the formation of relationships.
Like relationships, reading takes time. I carve out a spot for it daily but that doesn’t really make a dent in the growing reading list. I can’t claim that it’s because I’m no longer a professor. Except during the summer I read more now than I did when I was teaching (the professor’s life isn’t what most people think). It is, I believe, that there are so many interesting ideas out there that one person simply doesn’t have time to think them all. Reading and writing are a form of very slow conversation. Of course, with technology the rest of life is speeding up. Things seem now to happen instantly. The world of books is slower, and the pace is far more sane. I may never get through my list of books to read, but at least I have good conversation with those I don’t know, and that’s what really matters.