A little over a year ago, I wrote a piece titled “30 Things You Should Check Off Your Book Bucket List Before 30.” At the time, 30 felt lightyears away. I can write this post, I thought, because the pressure to accomplish these important goals is not imminent. I was safe. I was 28; I had all the time in the world to attend an author event hoping to form a connection with the author only to have her misspell my name in the inscription. I still had YEARS to borrow a book from a friend, travel to Chile, lose the book and then never speak to the friend again. But here I am, about one month away from 30, and I couldn’t travel to Chile right now even if I wanted to (which, for the record: I really really do).
How do I come to terms with the fact that I’ve left so many reading goals unchecked? At the stroke of my 30th birthday, my youth will be gone and along with it the ability to accomplish any goals or achieve anything of note. The past nine months has been the most psychologically numbing, but also the most introspective time of my life. Why did I place so much value on seeing someone get proposed to in a bookstore? And also, what is a bookstore? Do those arbitrary checkmarks on a book bucket list make me feel fulfilled in my reading life?
What do I really want out of my reading life, and how can I accomplish it in the next three weeks or so?
Here’s something: I would like to stay awake through an entire book read aloud to me. I have had the great fortune of being read to very often in my life, but never once, not even through a short story, have I stayed awake for the entire thing. What could be more important, now more than ever, than to remain alert to the words being spoken around me? How can I call myself a “reader” if the mere sound of someone reading words aloud puts me instantly to sleep?
I would like to discover the true meaning of a jacketed hardcover. Were the flaps always intended to be used as bookmarks? Why does it have to wear its identity as a coat and not on its skin? If it loses its jacket, does it lose its value (both intangible and resale)? Why isn’t the jacket affixed to the book, if it is so crucial to its identity, and why has a solution not been found for slippage? I do not have answers to these questions, but if I am to become a truly accomplished reader, the answers must be found. I have a suspicion that they have been in my heart all along, if only I can find the strength to discover them there.
I should like to know why every person who enters an indie bookstore asks whether the store holds author events and then never shows up to the store’s author events? Why does this good work go unappreciated? Would the same credibility be achieved if the indie bookstore simply advertised author events but did not hold them? I believe the answer to this conundrum must exist, but why have I not discovered it? The bookstore must host author events to be perceived as a necessary community literary resource, but the author events rely on the community to appear in order to be perceived as author events and not a very awkward conversation between two people. Perchance the answer might reveal itself to me in a dream before the start of my third decade of life?
I guess what I’m saying is I would like to become a truly enlightened reader. I would like to achieve mindfulness in the form of staying awake while being read to; I would like to gain insight into the true purpose and intention of a jacketed hardcover; I would like to understand the values, nay the morals, of those who claim to crave a literary community, without making themselves part of the community.
There are so many books in this world. Trying to keep up with my nightstand pile is a near helpless case. What I must do with my brief, precious time before 30 is get my true priorities straight; stop chasing after bucket list pipe dreams like getting a book-shaped sunburn and focus on the things I can do to help my reader’s soul soar. That kind of enlightenment can come only from me, not from mere external gratifications. I will not read, I will not sleep, until I achieve it—or I turn 30. Whichever comes first, really.