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Peace for the Promiscuous Reader

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Coming to grips with one’s naughty habits

PilesOfBooks-12202012By my favorite, well-lit chair are stacks of books. Actually five stacks. Why stacks of books? It’s a quirk of borrowing—one library allows me three weeks (six when I renew, which I usually do). Another library allows me three months or so (an amazing primary joy of teaching at a college, for which I am daily thankful).

In the past I’ve felt guilty for all these books lying around partially read. But yesterday I realized, “No, this might be what my reading life looks like. Maybe reform is not possible.” (Maybe reform is not needed?)

I currently adhere to the discipline of reading one book (at a time) straight through, from cover to cover. Right now I’m reading “The Dignity of Difference” by Jonathan Sacks which is an amazing, readable argument for why anyone should care about the outsider. I am completely intrigued by how Sacks pits Moses against Plato in a knock-down, drag out fight on purity vs. practicality. OK, yes, I’m also reading Wendell Berry’s Jayber Crow on the fiction side of the equation.

“Adhere to the discipline” because it is easy to fool myself into thinking I’m reading them all from cover to cover. I’m not. Many are there for research on this notion of the Other (Levinas) and various philosophical/theological tangents arising from an easily distracted mind. Some are there because of something I want to learn about or to try to backfill one of the many holes in my education. But with the cover-to-cover book, I also try to finish at least a chapter at each sitting.

So I read one fiction/non-fiction book from cover to cover as I sample from many. And then I pick the next cover-to-cover book from those I am sampling.

And I’m OK with that.

I’m OK with that because of a tweet from John Wilson (@jwilson1812) about his reading habits. As editor of Books & Culture, I imagine his office and home (Garage? Car? Boat? Scooter?) awash in tidal waves of book stacks. And that makes me feel not so bad.

But, well, judge me if you must.

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Written by kirkistan

December 20, 2012 at 9:58 am

One Response

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  1. […] all for books. And I’m especially fond of reading them. But I’d like to see ads for owning the contents of books. I’d like to see ads that move people […]


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