“I cannot live without books.” ― Thomas Jefferson
Well, it’s August 1, 2022, Dear Reader. Another month has receded in life’s rear-view mirror, while another begins.
As you know, I have been a reader for as long as I can remember. Even though I was born at the tail end of the Baby Boom, and I watched too much television as a child and young adult, I learned to read at a precocious age. I don’t know, exactly, how old I was when my maternal grandmother started teaching my ABCs, but my mother claimed that my father was still alive when I began reading from newspapers after being under my Abuela Tata’s tutelage. (Dad died a few weeks before my second birthday, so sometimes Mom was either mistaken or exaggerating.)
When I was younger, I used to read one book from cover to cover before starting another, but as I’ve grown older and don’t have that single-minded focus, I read the same way that my mom did; I’ll set aside several titles and read a few chapters from one, then put the first book down for a while and start reading a few chapters from the next. Then I’ll put that volume down and start reading from a third book.
Back in the 1970s and early ‘80s, which is when I noticed how my mom would create a To Be Read (TBR) stack on her nightstand next to her bed in the master bedrooms of the two last houses we lived in, I thought to myself, Boy, I’ll never do that! How does she keep track of all the different plots and characters?
(On a related note, my Abuela Tata – Mom’s mother – would be amused if she could see me playing the Klondike variation of solitaire on Windows. When I was a kid living in Bogota and even when she went to Miami to visit us – and go on day-long shopping marathons at Dadeland Mall and Bal Harbour – she would take a deck of cards out from her purse, smoke a cigarette or two, and play solitaire. As a young boy of five or six, when I was easily amused and would even watch telenovelas without complaining, I watched with great interest, but as I grew older, my attitude was I will never do that when I’m older.)
Many people, myself among them, feel better at the mere sight of a book.” ― Jane Smiley, Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel
Of course, in those pre-Internet days, the terms “To Be Read pile” or “TBR stack” did not exist, or if they did, I was unaware of them. I didn’t even think about how Mom and I (as an adult) read books. All I knew is that somewhere on the path from childhood to young adulthood, reading multiple books from libraries – either from school or through the West Miami-Dade Branch of the Public Library system – accustomed my brain to juggling three or more books at a time without dropping a character’s story arc or remembering if a book I was reading was fiction or non-fiction.
“I guess there are never enough books.” ― John Steinbeck, A John Steinbeck Encyclopedia
Ever since my mother’s health declined in early 2010 and even seven years after her death, I rarely devour a book as quickly as I used to in the Land of Ago. I think the longest novel I have read from cover to cover at the same pace of my pre-2010 days was Stephen King’s 11/22/63, and that was when I bought the hardcover in 2011, the year it was published.
I tend to do better with non-fiction books; I read James Holland’s Normandy ’44: D-Day and the Epic 77-Day Battle for France in less than a month back in 2019. The only other book I remember reading in a relatively brief span of time was the late James D. Hornfischer’s The Fleet at High Tide: America at Total War in the Pacific, 1944-1945, and that was the year that I moved here to Lithia, less than a year after my mother’s death.
My TBR Progress Report
Because I now nibble at books rather than devour them, a younger version of myself would be appalled by how slowly I read some books, and how I will put other books down – no matter how good they are or from what genre they’re in – and put them back on my IKEA Billy shelves, forgotten and unfinished. I tend to stay at my computer far more than I should because at least when I’m online, I feel more connected to my friends and family because here in Tampa, I spend so much time left to my own devices.
Consequently, by the time it is time for me to read, I’ve given myself a bad case of eyestrain and I find it easier to just mindlessly watch a movie or a TV show rather than read a chapter of two from a book.
And, of course there’s the oft-cited bit of wisdom about routine – once you break a habit, no matter how long you stick to it, it’s hard to pick it up again.
Since, again, I read books in small, often random fits and starts, I usually don’t make a lot of progress with the books on my monthly TBR list.
Remember Late July Diversions: An Update on My TBR and TBW Lists for the Summer of ’22?
Okay, it wasn’t so long ago that I wrote that post; it’s only been six days since it went live on WordPress. Still, from July 26 to August 1 is a sizable chunk of time in which I could have carved out some moments to sit in a quiet corner of the house – not my room – to read. And I could have done so if I had not purchased those adults-only “visual novels” Acting Lessons and Being a DIK.
Alas, the lack of active sex life and the novelty of playing anything with erotic content caused me to focus a bit too much on Acting Lessons and Being a DIK. I was entertained and a bit less depressed because I did that, but at the same time, I neglected my more mainstream reading material. So even if I got some reading done, I did not make much progress with my current rotation of TBR titles.
Here’s how things look on August 1 as far as my book reading is concerned:
- Of the 30 chapters in James Hornfischer’s Who Can Hold the Sea: The U.S. Navy in the Cold War, 1945-1960, I have read seven chapters in their entirety
- Of the 20 chapters in Peter Caddick-Adams’ Fire & Steel: The End of World War Two in the West¸ I have only read four, mainly because I’d placed it on the floor next to my futon and inadvertently kicked the book – probably when I got up half-asleep to go use “the facilities” – under the futon then forgot to look for it until last Saturday evening
- I read half of Thomas Wikman’s The Life and Times of Le Bronco von der Löwenhöhle: Stories and Tips from Thirteen Years with a Leonberger, then wrote an Amazon review
- I read only one more chapter of Mike Chen’s Star Wars: Brotherhood, making that a total of three chapters altogether
I plan to get some more reading done as soon as I post this on WordPress and go have some lunch; the forecast for this afternoon calls for Dog Days levels of high temperature (it’s 94°F/34°C) and thunderstorms, so chances are that I will not be on my computer anyway.
I don’t have much in the way of news, so I’ll close for now. It’s getting awfully dark, so I suspect that even if we don’t get any boomers this afternoon, we will see at least some rain showers. Until next time, Dear Reader, stay safe, stay healthy, and I’ll catch you on the sunny side of things.
3 thoughts on “On Books & Reading, or: Slow Progress with My TBR List is the New Reality for Me”
I also read more than one book at once, but I typically only read one fiction book at the time. Right now I am reading New York 2140 a climate science fiction novel and a book called Disaster by Choice and another What is real?, the unfinished quest for the meaning of Quantum Physics. The latter book is very interesting but I may have some objections to some of the reasoning. Alex thank you for show casing my book again. Today I mailed your book with mine to six friends of mine.
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In my current TBR list, three books, including yours, are non-fiction; only the Star Wars one counts as a novel. Happily, your book gets a mention since I’m currently reading it.
Re the six copies of my own work: Thank you, man. Hopefully your friends will like their copies. I appreciate your kindness and generosity of spirit, Thomas.
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Well, thank you Alex. I am trying to spread the word about your book like you are doing with mine. I am sure they will like it. The way you and I read books seems to be very similar.
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