Sunday, May 1, 2016

Inch One Hundred Sixteen: The Reading List

I just tossed out the reading list.

Well, "list" is perhaps too tame a description of what I just tossed. My list was a small, spiral-bound notebook in which I had listed title after title, some crossed out if I had read the book. Stuffed into the loose leaves of the notebook were 50 or more pieces of paper with more titles on them, pages ripped from the Daedalus Books catalogue with titles circled, and even a line or two of notebook paper torn from a friend's letter.

It was too much. I was drowning in good intentions, good recommendations, good reviews.


Even if I live to be 100, which I most assuredly will not, I will never ever read all the books I hear of, read of, learn of, am told about. For every one I read, three more titles will sprout in its place.

Even a benevolent Hydra is still a Hydra. And I am not Hercules.

Finally realizing that is what lead me to my bold decision to take the notebook, pull out every note stuffed into it, rip out every page I had written on (100 titles? 500 titles?), and chuck it all in the recycling bin.

Recycling pickup is on Tuesday.

Like Jacob Marley, I have been dragging a heavy coil wrapped tight around my waist. Only instead of of "cash-boxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds and heavy purses wrought in steel," my chain is one of unread books.

It is a ponderous chain!

Rest assured, this is not a renunciation of reading. I cannot live without my books. Friends will continue to thrust volumes into my hands and I will continue to view the library as my personal smorgasbord. I will happily read on into oblivion. Rather, this is a renunciation of collecting titles, of squirreling away each and every bright possibility with the best of intentions and then putting each and every successive possibility on top until I had a stratum that would rival any geologic layers.

So I've let it go. I have opened my hands, literally and figuratively. I have loosened my grip. Accompanied by a soft clank of covers and the faint scent of best intentions, I have stepped free of the coil I had forged myself, link by link.

I'm as light as a feather.

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