The day I sprawled on the floor and started reading Alice in Wonderland all by myself was one of the greatest days of my life. It made such an impression on me that I set out a few days later to learn how to read two books at once. I would read one book with each eye. (If I had more than two eyes I would definitely have gone with it). I spent quite some time experimenting with this proposition. I tried overlapping the pages from two books, so the right-hand pages of one covered the left-hand pages of the other. That didn’t work. I tried layering pages to see if I could read through the paper, like a scrim or a palimpsest, and read two pages at once that way. No dice. I tried putting one book above the other, so I could read to the end of one page and continue onto the top of the page of the lower book. Nope. Finally I realized it was probably just too hard for little kids, and I determined that I would try again when I got older. It cheeses me off to this day that I haven’t figured it out.
By the time I was 9, I knew I had a destiny. Obviously my destiny was to read Every Book in the World. I would start with A and just read them one after another. I was young and I had plenty of time.
I was 12 before some nefarious person burst that little bubble. New books were published all the time, AND not all of them were in English! There was simply no way to keep up, not when 200,000 new books came out every year. A few years later I had the happy realization that I wouldn’t really want to read Every Book in the World after all. That would include such things as logarithm tables and bus schedules and telephone directories and automotive repair manuals and genre fiction.
Now I’m turning 40 in a few months and I’m trying to reframe my relationship with books. They’re everywhere. They’re like tribbles. I’ve moved 27 times in the last 20 years, which should be sufficient motivation not to retain enough wood pulp to make an entire tree; despite trying to cut back, we somehow have four bookcases. That doesn’t include ghost books like the stuff I have on my phone. I can buy a book in bed at night in about 5 seconds, with a couple clicks and a touch of my fingerprint. One day I’m going to pocket-dial something and feel obligated to read it. In the near future, we’ll be able to purchase books by thought alone, in which case I’ll have to think a lot about the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, because otherwise Every Book in the World will be delivered to my front porch by Amazon drone, which would be very stressful for my dog.
Almost all the books in my house are books I have not read yet. (This includes some of my husband’s books, like Fundamentals of Astrodynamics, Linear System Theory, and Space Mission Analysis and Design. The Latin dictionary is mine). Once I’ve read a book, I’m generally done with it. All they get from me is one nightstand. (ba dumdum) What I’m trying to learn to do is to somehow stop the flow of new books so I can catch up and read what I already have. How can I hope to read Every Book in the World when I can’t even manage to read Every Book in the House?
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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