We neglect books but value the notion of books
Sunday, January 10, 2010

There is a great deal of difference between an eager man who wants to read a book and a tired man who wants a book to read.

-- G.K. Chesterton

If there was ever a weekend to settle in and read a good book, this should be it.

Christmas has drained my social budget.

I can think of few useful outside activities.

And the college football season has come to a close.

Years ago, there would be no question. On a weekend such as this, I would stretch out -- I always liked to read lying down -- on a couch and begin a mystery or a history. Maybe something on sports. Maybe popular fiction.

I was also a devoted devourer of biographies, searching the lives of famous men for hidden keys to their success.

But things have changed.

I've noticed I almost never read books anymore.

The ones I start, I seldom finish.

They collect in dusty stacks beside the night stand. Some have spent years on a corner shelf, unopened, unread, unremembered.

What happened? I'm not sure.

I always loved to read, and truthfully probably read more than ever.

I go through several newspapers each day via their Web sites. In fact, the Internet has become an addiction for my curiosity.

I will come across something interesting. Click on it and read until something else raises a question. Go find the answer to that, end up reading something else, and on and on -- locked in a rapid, unending game of word or topic association, until my wife or son suggests someone else wants to use the computer, too.

I also confess that much of the literature I've absorbed in recent years has been from books-on-tape (or CDs). It just seems more efficient to drive down the road while someone else reads me the story through the car stereo.

But listening to someone read me a book doesn't seem the same as tackling it myself. I feel like I am cheating the author of a required effort.

These days, I'm not sure why books and I had a falling out.

I could say it's a time crunch, but you and I both know we always make time for the things we really want to do.

For some reason, I don't care to read a book, and in that lack of concern I know my life is somewhat diminished.

Maybe things will change down the road and I'll recapture a lost spark to feed that deeper narrative curiosity a book always provides.

Maybe I'm just going through one of life's chapters that requires less contemplation and more hands-on maintenance.

Maybe things will pick up or change and I might get back to older, better habits.

I sort of hope that happens.

There's an unmatched sense of fulfilment when you turn that last page on a successful ending.

I miss that.

Reach Bill Kirby at (706) 823-3344 or bill.kirby@augustachronicle.com.

From the Sunday, January 10, 2010 edition of the Augusta Chronicle
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