Books gnaw at me from around the edges of my life, demanding more time and attention. I am always left hungry.
Before every elementary school classroom had a 'Drop Everything and Read' period, before parents and educators agonized more about children being glued to Call of Duty or getting sucked into the vortex of the Internet, reading as a childhood activity was not always revered. Maybe it was in some families, in some towns, in some magical places that seemed to exist only in stories, but not where I was. Nobody trotted out the kid who read all the time as someone to be admired like the ones who did tennis and ballet and other feats requiring basic coordination.While those other kids pursued their after-school activities in earnest, I failed at art, gymnastics, ice skating, soccer, and ballet with a lethal mix of inability, fear and boredom. Coerced into any group endeavor, I wished I could just be home already. Rainy days were a godsend because you could curl up on a sofa without being banished into the outdoors with an ominous 'Go play outside.'Well into adulthood, I would chastise myself over not settling on a hobby—knitting or yoga or swing dancing or crosswords—and just reading instead. The default position. Everyone else had a passion; where was mine? How much happier I would have been to know that reading was itself a passion. Nobody treated it that way, and it didn't occur to me to think otherwise.
Whenever one of us introduced an old favorite, we savored the other's first delight like a shared meal eaten with a newly acquired gusto, as if we'd never truly tasted it before.
All of us are writers reading other people's writing, turning pages or clicking to the next screen with pleasure and admiration. All of us absorb other people's words, feeling like we have gotten to know the authors personally in our own ways, even if just a tiny bit. True, we may also harbor jealousy or resentment, disbelief or disappointment. We may wish we had written those words ourselves or berate ourselves for knowing we never could or sigh with relief that we didn't, but thank goodness someone else has.
To whom do books belong? The books we read and the books we write are both ours and not ours. They're also theirs.
This is every reader's catch-22: the more you read, the more you realize you haven't read; the more you yearn to read more, the more you understand that you have, in fact, read nothing. There is no way to finish, and perhaps that shouldn't be the goal.