In addition to guilt-tripping me into completing books, I had hoped that some part of this endeavor would be discovering things about myself and my reading habits; maybe in some way stumbling across what exactly turned me from a “books first, everything else later” kind of girl into “Did you guys see the last episode of Bad Girls Club?” As luck would have it, I’ve made my first discovery already, and it has everything to do with choosing what to read next.
You see, as I stopped worrying so much about finishing one book before moving on to the next, the weight of my reading choices diminished significantly. If, say, 50 pages in I felt even the slightest bit displeased or bored with a book, I could easily add it to the pile on the nightstand (whose shelves are devoted entirely to half-finished novels) and pick up something else. Nothing was set in stone.
Today, staring at my shelves, whose 200+ unread books are themselves a veritable library of options, I found myself hamstrung by an inability to decide what comes next. And it’s because I no longer have the liberty of indecision — whatever I choose I have to finish, and I have to devote a significant amount of time over the next seven days to the task. There will be no tossing aside, or leaving at home in favor of getting 20 pages further in some other half-read novel. I feel like I’m committing to a weeklong cruise with someone I’ve just met, whereas before it was more like, you know, meeting a guy in a bar. You’ve got my attention for now, but I can’t say I won’t be talking to someone else in a half hour. It dawns on me that this indecision/lack of commitment isn’t unprecedented for me, or by any means exclusive to books. Look at television: five years ago, I had to sit down and watch a show when it was on. Maybe I’d try to juggle the three-plus remotes it took to successfully record something, but for the most part whatever I watched was a commitment, something I was determined to participate in as it happened.
Today, I can’t think of the last time I watched live television. I record everything, including things I may not even watch, just in case the mood strikes (as I write this, I have on my DVR multiple old episodes of Intervention, a random HBO documentary and some show called Reliable Sources that I taped for reasons I can’t remember). Nor does the freedom end there: I’ve been known to flip between recorded shows until I find something that suits me. Just yesterday, I got five minutes into respective episodes of Freaks and Geeks, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Law & Order: SVU before settling on the latest episode of Project Runway.
Rarely, if ever, am I forced to make a real choice when it comes to media anymore. The closest approximation is seeing a movie in the theater, and even that’s a three-hour commitment at most, and something I find myself doing less and less. So I guess it stands to reason that my approach to choosing books has morphed into something like my approach to the Old Country Buffet: get the salad first, but keep an eye on that pasta.
However! Lest you think I’ve written all this just to get out of making a final judgment, here goes: My next book will be The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Díaz. I know I’m approximately three years late to this book; it came out in 2007 and won the Pulitzer two years ago. But better late than never. At least this way there’s a slight chance someone else perusing this sad attempt at blogging will have, you know, read what I’m reading. Also, the cover silhouette reminds me of Rufio from Hook and you know what they say: Don’t judge a book by its cover, unless the cover is badass.