The Librarian’s Paradox: There are too many goddamn books.

That’s right. There are too goddamn many. I was so excited to get into this field, overcome with joy at the books I would be exposed to, the hours of reading pleasure to which I was about to surrender. I was not prepared for the very obvious problem that any decent person who listened to my declarations of delight (I’m looking at you, friends and family) could have pointed out to me: working a 40 hour week means I cannot possibly read the amount of books I have checked out in anything like the amount of time I’m used to. I’m a five-hours-a-day-minimum kind of reader. I like to get drunk off it and pass out at four in the morning with a great last line still buzzing in my head. I like to read a book every week, or two at time, or five or six a month, which is HELLA easy when you are unemployed. That’s what the library is made for!

Now I’m lucky if I can squeeze in two hours before I have to make and eat dinner, only to subsequently pass out.

And it’s not just that I have less time to read. It’s also that I now have a surplus of reading material! Every day I hear about a new book, a novel, a short story collection, a nonfiction work, a children’s adventure book, a graphic novel, a something, old or new, that I MUST get my hands on. It’s a terrible, terrible affliction, and I place the blame squarely in the blogosphere. (That, and my propensity to pick up books when I’m shelving, occasionally taking down more than I put back…) At some point I will get around to linking all the book blogs I started reading and you will see that I clearly have no idea what I’m doing.

I should stress that prior to landing this gig, I was a book lover on my own terms. I don’t like book clubs, because I hate defending my opinion in front of a group. I was a solitary reader up until college (with one or two exceptions) because I was the only person I knew who liked to read like a fiend. And although I was among the lucky children to embrace the first tentative webs of the internet (I’m talking Prodigy, bitches), I have almost never used it to get book recommendations. In between being autonomous and being a chronic rereader, it wasn’t so much that I read a lot of books, but that I read the same books A LOT. When I grew tired of traipsing after Bilbo or running from Cujo, I would bust out my library card and hit the shelves, book by book, looking for my own personal treasure.

Whatever appealed to me, that’s what I read. It did not occur to me that the world of reading had a structure, a community that kept track of who was making something worthwhile and who was not, when they were making it and for whom. My unconscious theory was if it was that good, I would hear about it eventually, and in the meantime, why not have the added fun of doing my own legwork? I actually KNEW my library, if someone wanted to know where to find an author, I could tell them just from memory. My reading has always been intensely personal, because it’s like living another person’s life, thinking their thoughts, and actually being somewhere else, if only for a short time. My biggest regret in life is that this gift has waned and I don’t yet know how to get it to come back. (Possibly by giving up the internet.)

But enough self-pity. The point is, I found the lair of the Bookish and also found myself dangerously under-read. Now I’m lost on the sea of books with not a single compass to guide me, or rather, too many compasses. In the space of one hour at the info desk, I can find myself on BookRiot, EarlyWord, and NPR: Books, as well as Shelf Talk, Shelf Check, Shelf Renewal, and No Shelf Required… And I don’t even OWN an eReader. Granted, there are many worse places to be, and planning time for books is not totally out of the question. I already squeeze pages out of my breaks and during my lunches, wrest a few paragraphs between cooking and eating dinner, and giving up TV in the evenings in exchange for tea and parchment, and of course, my blessed, often obligingly rainy weekends. But I’m still way, WAY behind.

At this point in the program, I would like to share with you an illuminating anecdote about those who read for pleasure vs. those who don’t read, or read only because they think they should.

One evening, I was at the apartment of a close friend, and we were moments away from leaving for dinner, when he had to go to the restroom. I’ll spare you the details of what that trip was like, because uh, ew? Anyway, I had just started The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherine Valente, and with my few precious minutes, I decided to finish the first chapter. My friend returned to find me in my reading “zone,” where I look somewhat like an angry shrubbery (hunched over, face scrunched up in concentration, hair sticking out like twigs, etc.), and he says, “Were you that bored?”

And I said, “aHA!” Actually, that’s just what I WISH I said, what I really said was something silly explaining myself, when I didn’t have to, because aHA! That’s what some people think of reading. That’s it’s something you do when you have nothing else to do. They think of it as a leisure activity, not as drinking the golden waters of eternity from the diamond cup of creativity… to put it mildly. It’s not necessary for their mental well-being. I’ll have to assume it’s because they’re aliens.

Reading is LIFE. And while I will hyperbolize greatly in this blog, I mean that completely… for me, and anyone else who finds themselves taken with it, burying themselves in ink and paper like happy little book hamsters.

I wouldn’t normally use a watermarked image, but this one was by far the cutest.

Anyway, I’m off to put my money where my mouth is. Or my eyes where my fingers… wait, no… I’m gonna put my… Screw it, I’m going to go read. Peace out, ya’ll. Also, if you know where there is an Ultimate Reading Guide for Book Addicts Who Are Newbs, holla at me. Otherwise, I’ll have to make another blog with that title.

Also, there is a very good article on the “I don’t have time to read” baloney over at Bookriot, one of my new favorite websites I use when ignoring loud patrons. Check it out.


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