Humor

When You Realize You Can’t Read All The Things

Our Reading Lives features stories about how books and reading have shaped who we are and how we live.

It’s happened again. You’ve logged on to Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, just minding your own business, when suddenly someone has recommended a book you haven’t read, its TITLE IN ALL CAPS practically demanding you go put it on your “to read” list right now. Later, you learn there’s a library used book sale where you can buy a hundred wonderful hardbound books for like $10 and isn’t that just fan-freaking-tastic. Then there’s the danger of walking by a bookstore, any bookstore, where they have sales tables, and they have staff recommendations, and they have plain old stupid shelves filled with plain old gorgeous stupid books, and you can’t stop yourself and your stacks of unread books are starting to grow into mini cityscapes on your floor and you won’t admit your problem although maybe your spouse will.

And like an idiot, you’ve surrounded yourself with kind, interesting, well-read people who are always talking about the books they’ve read, and you get yet another freaking Goodreads update email and all of the books people are reading look so goddamn fascinating. There are some books that sound so great and that so many people are talking about that you start talking about them, too, but have you actually read them yet? No, of course you haven’t! But you’re going to REALLY SOON. Oh, and look, some organization has gone and crafted another Best Books Of All Time list, just to remind you once again how many “classics” you haven’t read but you WANT to read them all; you do, you really do!

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Some stacks I recently picked up at my library’s used bookstore, like a doofus.

Look, now some thoughtful asshole’s given you more books to read as presents! And you say, ohh, these books are so beautiful and shiny and new and I can’t wait to read them! You think, I’m going to read this as soon as I finish the book I’m on now! And then you realize you’ve already said that about 35 other books since you started the book you’re on now! And let’s be honest, you’re going to be on the book you’re on now for a while, because you are a busy person and a slow reader and you waste all your free time thinking about books you haven’t read! And did you know that your favorite authors often keep writing books when you haven’t even read their last ones? Terrific. Swell. Thanks a lot for being so creative and productive, authors. Jerks.

And then, at some point, you have to realize that it’s okay. You will not read everything. You will not read the cityscapes threatening to tumble on your floor, no matter how hard you try. You will not make your Goodreads reading goal. You will not read as many books as your best reader friends. You will probably only read a few more classics in your lifetime. You won’t read every book your favorite authors have written, even if you really want to. You’ll never stop trying, of course. But it’s okay. You are not a bad person. You are not even a bad reader.

Because if you’re too busy to read all the books, there’s a better chance than not that you’re out there living the life that people want to write books about, anyway. And you’ll still find time to read something, and maybe that something will only be one book a month, and maybe it’ll be a book no one else cares about anymore, or that people never cared about at all but you found somehow, and maybe it’ll move you, and you’ll feel that calm and satisfaction deep within yourself that you are always searching for that a book that moves you brings, and just that moment, out of all the other busy, stressed, non-reading moments, will be worth it, and is enough.

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About Jill Guccini

Jill Guccini's careers totter between writer, educator, photographer, and future eclectic bookstore owner. Follow her on Twitter @daffodilly.