I finally have a library card again. Among the things I learned in this last move: I have too many books. Even just my fantasy fiction collection (diminished somewhat from the boxes I left at my parents’) fills up a whole wide shelving unit. I don’t regret having those books; the ones I’ve kept are the ones that have some combination of quality, re-readable-ness, and sentimental value. I just no longer feel the need to own the books I read.
And I need to be reading more. Graduate school turns reading into a job. There were semesters in which I was responsible for reading 500+ pages of scholarship every week. Reading stops being fun. I grew up reading for pleasure, and still do occasionally. As a writer, though, it has to be more often than occasionally, and it’s seldom just for pleasure. I’ve written about this before, but it’s something I’m reminding myself of now that my family is settling into the new house and we are shifting gears for the impending start of the school year. Reading good books makes me want to write ones like them. Reading bad books makes me want to get more good books out into the world. Win-win.
I’m pulling some inspiration on this from my former teammate Mike Dariano. Mike is one of those few people whom I feel closer to in the social media age than I did when we were actually going to the same school. This isn’t because we actually share stuff; it’s because we’ve ended up with strangely parallel lives. We’ve both put in time as adjuncts and years of being stay-at-home dads. We both write. We both try and use wiles to keep up with younger legs on the ultimate field. Mike, though, is scads more organized than I am, and works much more consciously toward improving himself and his work. He’s blogged about his projects in reading more, buying less, using Evernote, and half a dozen other things. (I’m particularly enjoying his recent stuff about incorporating Stoic principles into modern life.) Mike also has a new e-book out on building reading into your life.
Which brings me back to the library. I had a library card in Minneapolis. I got it the first week we were back in the Cities from Ohio, largely because I needed a card to use the internet at the library (a necessity until I could get internet at the apartment). When the kids were old enough, we used the library card all the time to check out children’s books. It was rare for me to check out anything for myself. Part of that was the grad school reading=work thing I mention above. Part of it was the fact that getting a toddler and an infant through the library did not leave much leeway for the lone grownup to explore the stacks. These days, my kids are old enough to look contentedly at the books they’ve picked out while dad finds a few to check out for himself. (My seven-year old is a voracious and frighteningly fast reader.)
On Thursday, the three of us went to the library here in Round Rock. The kids got five books each. I got two for myself. The first was Michael Chabon’s Gentlemen of the Road, which I’ve wanted to read for ages and have never gotten around to. The second is a book I randomly grabbed from the fantasy/sci-fi section. It has a gryphon on the cover and something to do with elemental magic. That’s as much as I can recall without having it in front of me. The grab-bag is sort of the point. Every trip to the library, my plan is to make one careful selection of something generally deemed worthwhile. There are swathes of the fantasy “canon” that I haven’t touched, and some literary fiction I want to get my hands on. The other selection will be something arbitrary. I expect there will be good books and bad book and many that fall into the range my mother calls “airplane books:” good enough to read when you’re stuck in a metal tube hurling through the sky. Mostly, I need to get more novel words (ha!) through my brain to keep my own figurative fields from going fallow.
My vague plan is that posts about these books will gradually replace my writings on #postac. I’ve said before that I’ never intended that Walking Ledges become a #postac blog. I still am one, but I’m not sure I will have new things to say about it every week. I’ll still keep my annotated postac page, and I’ll continue to write about my transition from teaching nominal adults to teaching people who aren’t yet old enough for a driver’s license. For now, you’ll have to excuse me. I’ve got some books to read.