Ok, I’ll admit it: I haven’t always been very good at making time to read. In fact in school, both high school and university, I got pretty good at getting by with doing very little reading. Many of the books I thought seemed interesting. At that point in my life, though, I guess I thought other things were more interesting.
Today when I look at many of those “never read" books on my bookshelves I feel a sense of regret, of missed opportunities. I think, “Oh, I’ll read them one day." But as each day passes, and I struggle to fit reading into those rare times when my mind is alert enough to effectively read, and as new must-reads land on my desk, I get overwhelmed thinking about everything I want to read. I cling feebly to the hope that I’ll have an afterlife, or a next life, with a quiet spot and a comfy chair, where I can finally make up for lost time.
Then, a few weeks ago, I watched a documentary about J. D. Salinger on Netflix. I was intrigued by his life, and by the testimonials of so many who had read, and whose lives had apparently been changed by reading, The Catcher in the Rye and his other books. I, of course, knew Catcher was one of those books that everyone read in school. Yet I struggled to remember if I had.* Failing to recall anything about the book, I headed to Amazon to buy it (I actually looked for it at McNallyRobinson.com first, but could only find study guides and commentaries).
When I found The Catcher and added it to my cart, I noticed some of the other books Amazon was recommending. Many of them were also books I had heard about, and thought interesting, but never read. I had an idea: I would buy some of these classic books, and commit to read them in the next few months, in an effort to jumpstart my reading efforts.
As I selected books, I thought about reading them as a writer. I picked books that, from what I knew, where different from most of what I had read, and might suggest different ideas, perspectives and techniques for my own writing. While I have always been interested in books that had an element of social criticism or commentary about them, in reality I hadn't read many that fit that description, at least not fiction.
From what I knew, these books – Slaughterhouse-Five, Brave New World, Catch-22 and Fahrenheit 451 – were all, to some degree or another, dystopian, darkly humorous, incisively critical or otherwise enlightening. I was exciting to discover what was between their covers. I ordered them, and waited patiently.
As you can see from the photo at the top of the post, my books have arrived. In fact, they arrived some weeks ago. I have just finished reading The Catcher in the Rye, and will post a review – or at least my perspective on it – shortly. In the mean time I will begin another book shortly; I’m thinking Fahrenheit 451 might be next. Right now I’m excited, and my brain is alive, with the prospect of reading these books. And I’m feeling more energy that I hope I can direct to intensify my own writing efforts. Now, I need sustain it…
* Friends on mine from Facebook, some who attended the same school as me, swear I must have read The Catcher in the Rye. I believe them. I just can’t recall it at all.