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The Stack

“I have to get through the stack.”

Whatever you might name your list, physically real, and sitting beside you, or a written list of books to read next, beware the impending doom of the stack. This is related to the previous reading piece Read your own way, but with a different slant.

I have a physical stack. Somewhere around Christmas my wife and I get a series of books from friends and families, for each other, and we pile up most of the reading we are going to do for the year. We didn’t mean for this to happen, it just happens. I’m old fashioned, my books are still physical books, my wife reads probably ninety percent of her books digitally. But we both had a stack, and recently I found myself rushing through a book, because I had to get to the stack.

I was completely wrong. Not for having the stack, that’s my way of planning my reading. I was wrong for the rush. I was shortchanging an author, a series of authors really as it was a short story collection, to get to the next thing. The next thing was not my favorite author, was not a book I was particularly looking forward to, it was just next.

I had to remind myself, if I read a book, and didn’t remember it, didn’t know if I liked it or not, and just got through it, did I really read it. As we said before, some people enjoy skimming books for basic ideas, and don’t mind speed reading. I’m not in that ilk. I tend to read more deliberately and want to remember my books fairly toughly. If an author took time to create a particularly beautiful sentence I want to give the book time to notice it.

There is no new wisdom here, and no new idea. Don’t rush today for tomorrow’s sake. The future (book) will be here before you know it. Etcetera, etcetera. But I needed to remind myself, slow down. The stack will be there. There will always be more books than I can ever possibly read.

Umberto Eco reminded me of this recently. He had a thirty thousand book library, and many people assumed he had read many of them, or even most. He admitted to having read a small percentage. He reminded us books can be something more, so can the stack. Books are a promise of the infinite, a library, yours or someone else’s a collection of the possible. You will never get to all of it. So why rush?

If you are anxious to get to a favorite piece, or a book by your favorite author, or just can’t wait to get through all of the books out there, all the power to you, but I am talking about guilt, or the feeling of rushing because you have to. Enjoy the book you are reading now, now. The next book will be here soon enough.

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