So how to decide what to read next? I always get excited about new releases, but when faced with the multitude of captivating covers and compelling blurbs – all at hardcover prices – I find myself paralyzed. How to choose? Frustrated, I browse a while, and my thoughts turn to all the unread books on my shelves, many of them classics I have the best intentions of reading and don’t, or the books my sister/mother/friend handed me with a overly enthusiastic and dubious testimony of their greatness. Then there is the stack of reading I checked out from the slim pickin’s at my small town library, but I take them for granted because they are somewhat passé, or because they were free, or because I can always renew them if I don’t get around to them.
I would argue that the reason most people don’t read (or don’t read more) is because the choices are too many, not too few. When a book requires a commitment of time (and quiet space), we become stingy. We don’t want to waste one minute on a book that tortures rather than titillates, erodes us rather than edifies, bores us rather than brightens us.
We seem to forget that we can always put a book down if it displeases us, but it’s sort of like a bad first date or a disappointing relationship – we've invested in this book. We asked around about it, reading reviews and taking tips from friends. We spent a good while in bookstores looking at covers to see which were the hottest. We read back cover blurbs like so much small talk…and then it happened. We thought we found “the one”. We “took it out”, forking over our money so we could get to know this book better. When we got a chapter or two into the date, we began to suspect we made a mistake. We kept reading, hoping the date would get better, but it didn’t.