Those who know me or are following the blog know that I love reading. Last year a friend asked how many books I might have read in my life? Averaging at 3 books per month, at 36 a year, I’ve been reading regularly for 16 years now, So, I told him that I might’ve read around 500 books till now. Not a great number but I was still proud. This year I decided to note down all the books I’d be reading and started off with the list in January. But, what started as a counting exercise soon became a hunt for numbers. How many can I complete this year? This month? This week? How many pages can I read today? I enjoyed the challenge for two months, but, ’slowly started dreading it. I simply did not want to read anymore, ’cause now it was anymore about reading a book but about reading it at a pace I didn’t enjoy. There was no more time to re read a few passages because they made such sense or because the language was beautiful but only a pressure to complete this and move to the next. I did not start reading to complete a goal. I just loved reading and happened to complete a good number of them. But, with a new ‘number’ goal in my mind it didn’t matter if I enjoyed reading or not. All I wanted was to hit target.
A few days back an acquaintance wanted to check my book collection, I obliged. After few minutes though I felt he was not impressed. True, my collection did not boast classics, prize winners, which everyone thinks others should’ve read but unknown gems (according to me) from not so well reputed authors but who nevertheless take me to a dreamland or affirm my faith in life. My acquaintance after all might’ve judged me based on what he saw, but, I won’t worry about that because a few years back in the hope of building a very good home library, I bought all well known classics/books from all well known authors, irrespective of whether I enjoyed or not only to realize I hated reading them. “They are book which all should read, don’t you know?” “Only if you read all these would you truly be matured or know the world” I told myself. After a couple of months, after accumulating considerable books, I stopped reading altogether. I didn’t want to go near those books – either because I was scared that I HAD to read so many or because I just didn’t like them so much that I didn’t even know why I bought them in the first place. (After all, just because a book is named classic does not make it readable). Very soon, I got rid of all those books.
These two incidents taught me a good lesson – never forget the ‘Why?’ in anything you do. Why do I read? Because I love a good story, good language and to challenge myself with the thoughts of the great minds. So, if the book I buy falls into any or all of these categories – be it juvenile literature or comics – I read and cast aside those – even classics – if they don’t. I still make wrong choices, but they are few. I realize there are many great books and not enough time. I struggle with the idea that if I keep reading ‘good enough’ books, I’ll not have time for the ‘greats’ but I don’t force myself. I’ll get to it, when I can, when I want to. But, I never want to compromise on the warm, tingling anticipation with which I open a book or the bitter sweet memory when I complete one. After all, that is why I fell in love with books.
Side thought: Isn’t this one of the reasons why we stop loving the job we once loved? the person we once loved? the life we once loved? ‘Cause we forgot ‘why’ we fell in love in the first place?