My bedside table (a hand me down from my maternal grandparents) has two shelves. The top has a stack of magazines, a clock radio, a lamp, ear plugs and some ball point pens. The bottom shelf is where The Stack accrues.
The Stack is the pile of books I have queued up to read. I know it’s getting sort of out of control when there are four or five piles of books each four or five books high on the bottom shelf. That’s the situation now. I have so many books I want to read. And I feel so stressed about not having enough time. This has a downside, in that I get very goal-oriented about finishing books in order to plow through my stack, and I think reading with this kind of mindset sort of works against why I read in the first place. But, still.
I read a really wide range of stuff, a lot of junk. Mostly fiction, ranging from the current Target/Costco pulp titles to science fiction to books by friends to authors I adore (right now have two Ondaatje books in the queue) to, even, occasionally, poetry. I also read memoirs, often but not always of the parenting variety (but never, ever, ever, how-to parenting books). I went through an Allende period last year, for example, and loved Didion’s heartbreaking Year of Magical Thinking.
I read all the time. I carry a book with me as often as I remember, though the iphone has filled this gap nicely as well, allowing me to avail myself of my reader queue whenever I have three empty minutes waiting in line. I think of my friend Anna, who used to bring a newspaper for the ten floor ride down the elevator in her apartment building. Love that.
More broadly than the anxiety to get through my specific stack, I have a deep-seated, fearful awareness that I’ll never have time to read all the books I want. It is literally impossible that I will have time in my life to read everything I want to read. This, in the classic things-I-cannot-control category, makes me incredibly sad.
I better get back to my reading.