Saturday, July 10, 2010

To Read or Not to Read

I was staggered this week when I read a statistic stating that most people only read 2-3 books a year. I had to read the sentence several times over to make sure I was seeing it right. 2-3 books a year? I'd read 2-3 books a week! And I don't read nearly as much now I used to. What do people do then? I cannot imagine riding the bus without reading a book, lying in the bath without a book, eating alone in a cafe without a book. I carry one everywhere I go, just in case I have a spare five minutes with nothing to do.

I cannot imagine a life without reading and books, even now. I don't read less these days, but because I do a lot of reviewing and critiquing of other people's books and stories, a lot of the reading I do is of unpublished work rather than completed books. But I do still read a lot of books. I go to the library every 3 or 4 weeks and check out 4 -5 books, depending on length, and it is unusual for me to return any unread.

There has been a lot of online debate about Tin House magazine's latest policy that requires a writer who wishes to submit to them to include a receipt from a bookstore with their submission. I think it's a great idea. As writers, we have to support other writers, and how do we do this if we don't buy books? It's one book. Depending on where you buy books, you can get them pretty cheap if money is your issue. When I lived in Melbourne, I bought books all the time. I was spoiled for choice really. The complex my cinema was in had a wonderful independent bookstore across the road, a Borders underneath it and a bargain bookshop across from that. Books galore! And for any budget.

I buy fewer books now, I admit. The Wellington Public Library is wonderful and I never have any trouble finding enough books I want to read. But I still buy books that I love because I am a chronic re-reader. There are certain books I read at least once a year because I just love them so much. These books I need to own, need to be able glance at on my shelves and know they are waiting, just like the old friends they are.

What books do you feel this way about? That you need to own because you want to return to them over and over again?

1 comment:

  1. books i don´t need to finish to enjoy throughout the ages....MOBY DICK,life:a user´s manual, FINNEGANS WAKE, kathy acker´s books...
    buy mostly secondhand, take nippy advantage of supple nearby library to keep up the reading malady...