≡ Menu

The Sunday Salon: The Books I'll Never Read

The Sunday Salon.comI went to the library on Thursday to grab a couple of books for a post next week on a local author for GalleySmith’s Literary Road Trip. One book I got took me into the library’s essay section, somewhere I actually haven’t browsed in a long time.

I love reading great personal essays and essay-length journalism. It’s a form I want to emulate, and I find writers in that genre never cease to amaze me. What struck me in the library was something that I’ve always known but never really got until now: there are far more books in the world than I am ever going to get to read.

library shelvesSomething about standing in front of an, admittedly, small section of my favorite literature and knowing that I’d never read most of what was on that shelf made me profoundly sad. It made me wish I could get back all the time I wasted that day surfing the internet and fiddling on Twitter while waiting for people to call me back for my news story. Imagine how much more I could read if I just stopped wasting time?

The thing is, even if I turned all of the time I waste in a day into reading time, I’d still have no chance of reading all the books I would love to read. I mean, there’s just no way it’s possible to keep up with the volume of writing that’s produced every day. But knowing that doesn’t make it any less sad, does it?

Photo courtesy of Wrote (via Flickr)

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Shonda August 9, 2009, 10:40 am

    Well said! I agree with you. People tell me “you read a lot”. I believe this until I’m browsing at a book store and see all the books I haven’t read! It seems as though the more I read, the more I have YET to read.

    As for wasting time on the internet, I agree with you too. When I know I could be reading, do chores, or something productive, I find myself surfing the internet which can easily turn into hours! I too have thought about time-wasters that I knowingly participate in.

    Good topic…

  • kay August 9, 2009, 10:54 am

    How I agree with you! This is one sad reality. But the day I realized that was also the day I decided to be less severe about “finishing every book I start”. I give each book I read a chance, but no more pressure on finishing those I don’t like, when so many I could love are waiting on the shelves!

  • Lisa August 9, 2009, 11:22 am

    Just looking at my TBR pile can make me sad because I know if I didn’t buy any more books for two years I could just get through it at the rate I’m reading now. And what are the chances of me not buying any more books? Zilch. There are too many books and not enough hours, that much I know is true!

  • debnance August 9, 2009, 11:44 am

    I remember the day I visited the big university library to do research for a high school paper. It was on Kafka. The librarian I consulted asked if I wanted books on Kafka in English or in the original German. When she showed me the shelves the library had on Kafka, I realized I’d NEVER EVEN READ ALL THE BOOKS ON KAFKA.

    It was a momentous day for me. I resolved to never waste time on a lousy book.

  • Ann August 9, 2009, 11:54 am

    My doctorate supervisor once told me that the day he came to terms with his mortality was the day he realized that he owned more unread books than he had life left to read. Mind you, that didn’t stop him buying more and more to add to the pile.

  • Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy) August 9, 2009, 11:56 am

    Oh, how true, Kim! I feel the same way, especially when I look at my library loot, knowing that there will inevitably be some that will be returned unread because of lack of time.

    And it’s the same with blogs, too. There are so many great writers and creative folks out there that I want to read them all, but it is impossible to do so. 🙁

  • Molly August 9, 2009, 12:05 pm

    You have touched a nerve in the book blogging community!

    While it is sad to think that I will never have the opportunity to read all the books that I would like to read someday, I must admit that I will have a grand time trying to achieve that goal. I love the comment that Ann made about her doctorate professor —- we can come face-to-face with our mortality, but that does not have to prevent us from finding more books to add to the TBR mountain.

  • softdrink August 9, 2009, 12:12 pm

    I’m constantly reminded of the books I have waiting for me when I read everyone’s reviews. My mind is all “oh, I have that” and “I forgot I want to read that” and “ooooh, pretty cover.” Then I go to the bookstore and can’t resist buying more books. And then I wonder when I’ll read everything. So yes, it’s sad…especially when I think of all the great books I’ll never even hear of, let alone get a chance to read.

  • Memory August 9, 2009, 12:21 pm

    Man, do I ever agree with you. There are so very many books I want to read, and I find it frustrating to think that I’ll never, ever finish them all. Even if I made up a great big reading list right now and never strayed from it, I’d still miss out on all the wonderful books that have yet to be published. Sigh. It’s impossible for a reader to get ahead.

  • wordlily August 9, 2009, 1:06 pm

    I agree, it’s very sad. I try not to think about all the books I’ll never be able to read.

  • David August 9, 2009, 4:52 pm

    Hello there, I just wandered here randomly from the Sunday Salon website — hope you don’t mind a stranger commenting. Oh, but this is the bookworm’s eternal problem, isn’t it? I’ve problem accumulated enouh unread books to keep me going for at least another five years, and possibly another ten. Does this stop me acquiring more? You can probably guess the answer to that.

    Sometimes I tell myself not to be concerned about all the books I’ll never read, because it’s impossible to keep up. Of course, it never works.

  • Dani in NC August 9, 2009, 9:51 pm

    This is the thought that keeps me from being much of a collector of anything. Having stacks and stacks of unread books in the house would just be a reminder that there are more books than time. Borrowing them from the library is less overwhelming for me; it lets me pretend that any of the books left behind aren’t worthy of my time :-).

  • Allison McCaskill August 9, 2009, 10:48 pm

    I agree. On the other hand, tonight I gave my Mom another book and she said “I have so many good books and not enough time to read them!” and I said “yeah, but that’s better than the other way around, right?”

  • Ali (Worducopia) August 10, 2009, 1:42 am

    I like to turn that around and think about the abundance of it all. Imagine a life where you didn’t have access to more books than you had time to read. We’re so very fortunate.

  • Margot August 11, 2009, 8:37 am

    I just wanted to say that I’m looking forward to your Literary Road Trip posts. I was born in Wisconsin but left when I was 14. I spent more time in Kansas so I chose that state for my Literary Road Trip state. But Wisconsin – part of me is still there so I’m looking forward to reading who and what you discover. And, an essay sounds great to me.

  • Nicole August 11, 2009, 10:29 am

    I’ve often felt a similar sadness. There are so many books out there I want to read, and sometimes I despair that I will never read them all. And then I think of all the books I will probably never even know about, and I wonder what I’m missing.

    Life is so full– full of places and people and books and art to experience. And that makes me as happy as it makes me sad. While I will never experience them all, I take comfort in the fact that I will never run out of new things to experience.

    Oh, and here’s an award for you. 🙂

  • justicejenniferreads August 11, 2009, 1:52 pm

    I guess another way of seeing it is to look at all the books you have read, and just savor and enjoy every delicious moment of them. Sure, there are always going to be things we didn’t do or books we never got a chance to read, but we really don’t have enough time to do it all. So just enjoy the moments you waste along with them moments you use to read books – because we’re lucky to have any time at all, right?

  • bermudaonion August 11, 2009, 3:55 pm

    I know exactly how you feel! There are so many books I want to be reading right now! Oh, how I long for a maid and an errand girl.

  • Susan August 11, 2009, 5:39 pm

    I know there are so many good books I won’t get to! but I’ve made it my mission to try to read as many as I can before I go, like Ann’s supervisor told her. I keep buying and I keep reading!