Books that keep me happily reading.

My project of reading “easy” books continues, as I find a certain satisfaction that comes from the process of reading itself, and not from digesting new (or even old) and difficult ideas. Trashy books, however you interpret that term, will not do. They have to have content I can grasp, and/or be reasonably well-written, if they are to keep me going past the first few pages, and to satisfy me.

I stopped listing “Books I Am Currently Reading” on my blog sidebar when I gave myself permission to pick up and put down titles in quick succession if necessary. At my stage in life I don’t want to bother with an annoying writer or boring content.

I have re-read some from years ago, and that is a happy activity; I’m often surprised at how much of the content seems completely new. I am not the same person who read the book back then, so my relationship with the author and the work is bound to be different.

I feel a review of one such recent engagement shaping up in my mind, but while it’s slowly forming, I thought I’d share this funny list, taken from a book I haven’t read, and don’t think it likely I will ever read. Have any of you read it? Unfortunately, for me most books in the world, including Calvino’s, must fall into his fifth category below.

To be honest, I rarely shop in brick-and-mortar bookstores. I feel guilty about this. But the last few times I did shop in the old-fashioned way, I brought home books I didn’t ever crack open once I got them home. What was that about? And I had spent hours wandering, wasting time I might actually have been reading one of the venerable favorites at home on my shelves. Calvino’s categories apply nonetheless.

SECTIONS in the BOOKSTORE

– Books You Haven’t Read
– Books You Needn’t Read
– Books Made for Purposes Other Than Reading
– Books Read Even Before You Open Them Since They Belong to the Category of Books Read Before Being Written
– Books That If You Had More Than One Life You Would Certainly Also Read But Unfortunately Your Days Are Numbered
– Books You Mean to Read But There Are Others You Must Read First
– Books Too Expensive Now and You’ll Wait ‘Til They’re Remaindered
– Books ditto When They Come Out in Paperback
– Books You Can Borrow from Somebody
– Books That Everybody’s Read So It’s As If You Had Read Them, Too
– Books You’ve Been Planning to Read for Ages
– Books You’ve Been Hunting for Years Without Success
– Books Dealing with Something You’re Working on at the Moment
– Books You Want to Own So They’ll Be Handy Just in Case
– Books You Could Put Aside Maybe to Read This Summer
– Books You Need to Go with Other Books on Your Shelves
– Books That Fill You with Sudden, Inexplicable Curiosity, Not Easily Justified
– Books Read Long Ago Which It’s Now Time to Re-read
– Books You’ve Always Pretended to Have Read and Now It’s Time to Sit Down and Really Read Them”

― Italo Calvino, If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler

Painting above by Tavik Simon – “Vilma reading on a Sofa”

12 thoughts on “Books that keep me happily reading.

  1. When I came to “Books Made for Purposes Other Than Reading,” my first thought was of my one-volume Oxford English Dictionary: the one that came with the slipcase and the magnifying glass. It’s alternate purpose? Doorstop!

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    1. If that category were “Books Bought for Purposes Other Than Reading,” I could imagine some examples, and also see some overlap with other categories, such as, “Books You Need to Go with Other Books on Your Shelves.” But were these books made for some other purpose? Some people do read extensively in a dictionary… Those “books” that are actually boxes that look like books but that are used to hide things on a bookshelf – well, they are not really books! So, I don’t know what would qualify for this category. But your dictionary example makes me laugh out loud! I once used a stack of books on the floor of my living room to casually and oddly hide an electrical outlet.

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  2. I like those categories, especially the one that concerns books I’d read if I had more than one life and my days were not numbered. I don’t think I’m quite at the stage where my days are numbered but definitely at the stage of not forcing myself to read what I don’t enjoy.

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  3. I so relate! I love the list, too. 🙂 I got rid of tons of books when I moved this week. I had so many that I just didn’t need to TRY to get around to reading. Now I have a very small selection, plus the huge selection on my Kindle, of course! Enjoy reading just for pleasure. It’s great when we reach the point that we don’t have to continue with a book (out of guilt?) if it’s not floating our boat, lol.

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  4. I like having certain book collections hovering in my booky world like anticipated holidays. I’m so thankful for my favorite writers and their obedience and willingness to keep their rumps in the chair, writing delightful words for me to read over and over again.

    In the beginning was the Word. Bliss.

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  5. I love that list! I especially am glad at this stage in my life that I can finish with a book whenever I want. Yesterday’s “Crankshaft” comic strip has this exchange: “You’re finished with that book, Ms. McKenzie? But you just started it yesterday!” “Yes … but it turns out that I was finished with it before the author was!” And, re: books made for some other purpose, I immediately thought of the old days when phone books were published so that toddlers could sit on them at the dinner table 🙂

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  6. That is a hilarious list!! I just read it aloud to Adam and Julia. We recognize those categories SO much 🙂

    It’s interesting how you said that you are not the same person now that you were when you’d read some books years ago .. so your relationship with the text is different. I’m pondering this concept of whether we change or not. I would like to change in some ways (recent blog post explains this). PomPom noted in a comment that people not really change much. But you say you have changed. I want to clarify this. I’m quite bad at self-evaluation and want to know what I used to be like, whether I’ve changed, and how, and how I can or may change in the future. Okay … I just got sidetracked!

    I’m just a few pages from finishing “Home Fires,” a book that’s been such a SLOW read, one I should’ve quietly put down and decided I was done with 150 pages ago. OH well. Wasted hours, perhaps.

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    1. I don’t mean that my essential character and personality have changed, but that because of increased knowledge both experiential and intellectual, I am an expanded version of my former self. As it applies to reading, the changes in my mind and psyche might have effects similar to what any of us might experience, reading a book when we are, say, twelve years old, and then again when we are thirty. We engage with the author; if I had the chance to sit around chatting with C.S. Lewis when I was ten, what I could take away from the encounter would be much different than if it happened when I was forty.

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