I have books I want to read stashed all over the house and I’m sure my wife thinks I have a problem. I have a few books sitting atop my bedside table…and then a few dozen more inhabiting its lower shelf space. There are a couple books stashed on the living room mantle for easy access. The coffee table upstairs can be opened to reveal a few books. Our son’s room, which already has plenty of his books, also houses a dozen-or-so of my books and comics, nicely placed below his nightstand (my wife says I need to give him back his space). Books wait for me at work. Whatever bag I use to get from point a to point b is guaranteed to have a book thrown in.
I should probably mention that we do have a book room, with our house specifically being purchased with a space for my books in mind. This room contains many shelves for my personal library. It is also home to an extra shelf for my to-read books.
The story doesn’t stop there though, I have a constant itch to get more books. I jot down notes when I hear about a book I might like. I snap photos of books I see in the wild that interest me, so I can remember them later. My Amazon wish list is constantly growing with more books and comics I would love to read one day. My email inbox is flooded daily with junk mail, which I delete without a thought or a second given to what’s inside, unless it’s from Goodreads, Amazon, or Bookbub, letting me know about the latest books or about reads that just might interest me. I make time for those.
As an Amazon Prime member, I get a free ebook every month. Digital books are not my favorite way to read, and I already struggle to get through my physical books, but there is no way I’ll miss snatching up one of the ebooks on offer. Now, I have a digital backlog slowly growing, one that can follow me around in my pocket all day long.
So, why do I do this? Why do I get the urge to drop by a bookstore to see what’s new? Why do I ask people for recommendations and about their favorites? Why do I follow people on Goodreads just to see what they’ve read, liked, and might be interested in? Why do I keep adding to this literary mountain I could never possibly scale?
My answer is hope. To me, books symbolize hope.
Books are born of hope. When I walk into a bookstore, I am surrounded by people’s hopes. Someone felt this story needed to be told or this information needed to be shared, and now they hope someone reads it. Maybe they hoped for artistic expression or simply financial success, but they manifested that hope into a physical embodiment and set it free into the word. That’s beautiful.
I have a friend who recently quit his job, just so he could write a book. I envy that man’s willingness to pursue his hopes and dreams. Maybe one day I’ll find that bravery in myself. I hope so.
Each book I read hopefully grows me, expands my mind, teaches me something, helps me experience a new way of thinking, and maybe brings me a bit closer to the author, even if we never meet. How could I not want more of all of that? How could I not hope to be a better and more well-rounded person? How could I not hope to better understand others in this world?
Hope doesn’t stop there though. I love reading and it is one of my absolute favorite ways to spend my time. Both fortunately and unfortunately, my free time is much more limited these days. I have fantastic time-takers such as my marriage, son, and friends. I also have all the not-so-fun responsibilities that come with adulthood and life. Whatever the reason, time can be scarce and it can be hard to fit in everything I want to do. Yet, I still bring that book everywhere I go. It comes to work, it sits by bedside, it goes for a drive with me, it travels from room to room, and watches me live my life as it waits for those quiet moments. I hope for those unexpected breaks and those opportunities for me.
Having a book always handy is my way of saying that things will slow down and calm down. I will get my moments and my time. The to-do list may seem unending now, but eventually there will be more space for me. That time doesn’t always come quickly and some days it doesn’t come at all, but I never stop hoping for it and staying optimistic for it. The day I stop keeping a book handy is the day I’m saying I’ve lost hope for what my life will be.
So, that explains having one unread book, right? I only need one to symbolize my dream of free-time. It only takes one to fulfill that need of connecting to an author and drinking what the book contains. Why grab a hold of more than I could possibly handle?
That’s also hope and optimism. I am a mortal man. My days are finite and thus so is the number of books I will ever read. Even if I won the lottery and spent every moment of my life reading, I would never get through all the books I could enjoy. Tomorrow isn’t promised, but I hope it will come. And, if there is a tomorrow, there may be a chance to read, and so I should probably have some books ready just in case. I’ll keep getting books because I’ll keep hoping there is some more time to get to them.
I once sat with an older gentleman. I did not know him well, but he seemed like a good man, and maybe one who liked his cars. His granddaughter asked him what his next car would be, and he responded that there wouldn’t be a next car; this would be his final car. This was not because he adored his current car but because he didn’t think there would be enough time left to get to another car. It turns out he was correct and he passed away not terribly long after this conversation.
This moment has stuck with me and it makes me sad for a lot of reasons. I can’t say what this man was actually thinking, but as an outsider I felt as if he had given up on seeing many more years. I don’t know what it’s like to be his age, and again I don’t know what he was actually thinking, but I know I’m not ready for that outlook on life yet. If today is my last day, so be it, but for now, I’ll keep hoping for more time on Earth to do the things I love, and that includes reading.
I hope one day my son loves to read. I hope I can impart some joy of reading to my students. I hope to connect with friends through what we’ve read in common. I hope that I get to experience stories others felt were worth sharing. I hope to surround myself with words because they help me understand the world.
Right now, I hope I’ve helped you understand me a little better and I hope you find the time to read something good too. Far too many people I know don’t make the time to read. I hope you do or will soon.