miscellaneous commentary

Thoughts on book reading, &c.

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Over the past few years I’ve read between 10 and 12 books per year. If I make it to my eighties, I can expect to read another 500 to 600 books in my lifetime.

When I was a kid I expected I would read thousands of books within my lifetime. Clearly that’s not going to happen without a major change in reading habits. I can either devote more time to reading, or read shorter books.

But the quantity of books read in a lifetime isn’t as important as the quality. And for the most part I’ve enjoyed the books I’ve read over the past few years, though “The Green Mile” didn’t impress me as much as it did when I first read it in 1996. After reading everything by Cormac McCarthy in 2009, I return to someone like Stephen King and feel a bit unfulfilled.

I also realize there are few books I want to devote time to re-reading. There are so many great books out there to be read and considered and thought about, and with a limited lifespan, re-reading will be reserved for a few McCarthy titles, for “Alas, Babylon” and my Calvin & Hobbes collection. I’m going to conduct a book purge, the third this year, and donate whatever I don’t see myself re-reading to the Book Nook.

Speaking of re-reading… while I liked the vocabulary and bizarre escapades within “Infinite Jest”, the enormity of the book (over a thousand pages, including nearly 100 pages of end notes) taxed me to the point of not picking up another book for months afterwards. I know I didn’t get as much out of it as I should have, but I just can’t bring myself to read it again. Not anytime soon.

So far this year I’ve read “Blood Meridian”, “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”, “The Killer Angels”, “Suttree”, “Johnny Got His Gun”, “The Green Mile”, “The Arabs in History”, “Your Money or Your Life”, “To The White Sea”, “Born to Run”, “Bone” and am currently working my way through “Team of Rivals”.

On the docket for 2011: “Catch-22” and “Catcher in the Rye” – two classics I’ve been putting off for no good reason – and perhaps the Harry Potter novels. And maybe “Huck Finn” too.

Considering whether to re-read a book leads to thinking about all the movies I’ve seen in my lifetime, which numbers in the thousands, and how many I’ve seen this year, which isn’t nearly as many as I’ve seen in years past, especially the number of movies I’ve seen in the theater this year.

It also gets me thinking about how many movies I currently own and how many times I might watch them again. Most of them will be watched at least once or twice more, enough to justify the price of purchase. Only a handful are watched a dozen times or more.

This is one reason why I’m so grateful that Blockbuster still operates a store only a couple miles away. I can pick up 3 DVDs from their previously viewed section for $20 rather than shelling out top dollar at retail stores. Given the average rental price around here is a buck or two, I’m getting my money’s worth as long as I watch each purchase a few times.

There are a number of movies that have been watched enough times to justify their initial purchase but now sit around collecting dust. This includes a few pricey Criterion movies bought on discount through Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Quality movies that I don’t always find myself in the mood to watch.

They do come in handy, however, when friends from out of town come to visit and mention they want to see more French cinema – then I have an opportunity to lend out my copies of “Au Hasard Balthazar”, “Le Samouraï” and “Playtime”.

Once I finish the book purge, I’ll move on to the DVDs. I’ll post a list of whatever doesn’t make the cut so it can find a good home with someone else.


Written by camcarlson

December 1, 2010 at 11:58 PM

Posted in Cinema, Literature

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