A flood of books

I have at least two dozen books that I've been given or have acquired, which sit unread on my shelf. I get new books faster than I can read them. In part, this is because people give me books for my birthday and for Christmas. I'm an intelligent, curious person, so this would seem like a natural. However, I also don't read as quickly as everyone seems to think I do. I don't have as much time to devote to reading as I used to, and my rate of pages-per-hour isn't high enough to keep ahead of what I have.

Some of the books are things that other people thought I would be interested in, like the disappearing water in the American West/Southwest or the fate of one half of Ernest Shackleton's Antarctic exploration party. Others are important books by Ayn Rand and Winston Churchill, whose writing I know I will enjoy (based on skimming). Biographies, fiction, science fiction, histories, non-fiction about economics, politics, science... so many books, so little time.

One book has pretty much made itself obsolete before I read it. It's a deep-thought analysis of the emerging world economic and soci0-political structures. I got it for Christmas years ago. I'd have to check, but I believe it was written pre-9/11. It was certainly pre-Iraq, pre-world financial crisis, etc. What will it have to say that is relevant now? Maybe a lot about where the nations were, but not about where they are or where they will be. I don't have time (or inclination) to undertake a big critical analysis of geopolitics. So, skip it. Pack it away or give it away, unread.

Another one is a collection of essays which my brother-in-law was sure I would just love, and would find fascinating. He was right, I did find them fascinating when I read them as they were originally published in the New Yorker years ago. (He doesn't read the New Yorker, so they were all new to him.) There is one essay which I haven't read, since it was published in the Atlantic. Since I've already read 85% of the book, catching that one essay hasn't been tops on my list. I also did a spot check, to see if the pre-published essays were other than I recalled them. I don't think they changed any.

I want to read, and to let my kids see me reading. My sons used to love to sit and read, then they wanted to play video games all the time. This transition took place right about at the time that I started playing video games as a form of entertainment, instead of reading.

Books aren't immersive enough for me anymore. Maybe this is because I'm not reading the right kind of books, maybe because I'm so tired and distracted and depressed by work that I need something more insistently bright and flashy to keep my attention. When I read, my mind wanders to all of the crap I have to put up with at work, and I lose my thread in the story.

Last year I got movies and video games. I found a couple of chunks of time to watch the DVD, and have played the games, but not finished any of them. In response to questions from relatives, my wife told them that more books would not be a good thing for Christmas. This makes me feel really depressed. The clearest indication of an active, inquiring, intelligent mind is reading. Look at me - on my shelves I have DVDs I haven't watched, games I haven't played, books I haven't read. My kids, my wife, my job, my house - these all take up 95% of my time.

I don't read the newspaper in the morning (no time). At the end of the day, the headlines from the newspaper are obsolete, since I hear the news on the radio. I read the comics and that's it.

When I come home from work, it's time with my wife to debrief and to get briefed on what's going on with the homelife. Help get dinner, or make dinner myself. Eat with family. Read comics in newspaper. Enforce homework, dash to choir practice, evening meetings, whatever. Enforce bedtime for kids, read them a story. This takes me up to 9:00. I've got an hour to fix whatever got broken, do necessary chores, etc.

Settling down to read is hard to do.

And I want to add my little droplet to this flood? How stupid.

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