The bookshelf in front of my desk has often had me wonder, ‘would I ever be able to read all those books before my time is up’. I am 73 . Browsing the Net and channel surfing have pushed reading books to a back-seat in my re-ordered daily routine.
My shelf has books waiting to be read. It has part-read books bookmarked to be taken up later. And there are the ones I gave up on after a chapter or two. Such is my backlog of reading.
This, however, doesn’t end one’s quest for books to be read. My current wish list includes Vinod Mehta’s Lucknow Boy, and a pre-Jan 25 Egypt’s novel Taxi, by Khaled Al Khamissi, who weaves a story of despair, poverty and hopelessness through the voices of Cairo’s taxi drivers. Of course, I am in no rush to get Lucknow Boy ; would rather wait for it to show up at a used-books seller’s pavement spread . That is where you can haggle before buying. Books picked up at county library book sales during our periodic US trips, account for scores of titles on my shelf. The thing about them is, during closing hours of sales, you pay only for a carry bag , and they let you take away as many titles as the $2 bag can hold.
As if I am obliged to read all books in my possession, the unread and unfinished ones sitting in my shelf give me a ‘guilt’ feeling whenever I pick out an odd title for a re-read. How could I go back to something I have already read, when there is so much still to be read, and not much time to do it in. You find an answer in this magazine piece by Hannah Rosefield. Readers come in two types , she says – people who reread books, and those who don’t.
A self-confessed first category person Ms Rosefield cites in her defense Patricia Meyer Spacks’s book, On Rereading. She is quoted as saying, “rereading a book loved over a decade ago may provide a comforting continuity, a sense that both we and the book have remained essentially the same, but equally it can reveal how much we have changed, or how different the book is from our memory of it. Perhaps we like it just as much, but for different reasons; perhaps we don’t like it at all”.
Though I am not the type that rereads books, I revisit a title , prompted by something I watch or read about in the media. Reading review of a book on Eva Braun I made a mental note to look for Hitler in my shelf. A festival screening of Trisha, a movie adaptation of Hardy set in India, prompts one to revisit Tess by Thomas Hardy.
Rosefield in the magazine piece, referring to the types of readers, doesn’t mention the type of people who read two or more books at any given time. I am doing three right now – An Amateur’s Attempts – a collection of blogposts and other bits by my young frind Lakshmi Bharadwaj; The Bookseller of Kabul; and a re-read of Reel Power, a book by Mark Litwak on what makes Hollywood tick.