Monday, April 23, 2012

The Reading Deficit

The Pile, 2012

There’s a day some people celebrate—I believe they call it Tax Freedom Day—when, as I understand it, you are theoretically no longer earning income just to pay taxes. After that date, celebrants say, everything you earn is yours.
I’ve never worried about that day because, all things considered, I think I get a pretty good deal for my taxes. And contrary to the prevailing mantra of the Tea Partiers, there are things I’d gladly pay more taxes for.
But enough politics. In my little world there’s another, more meaningful, break-even day. It’s the day each year I break even on the stack of books by my reading chair.
Even in this Kindle age, I still welcome and receive a number of “real” books for Christmas. This year was no different. Combined with the usual daily reading, work-related reading and reading related to other interests—all told, a stack of books, magazines, newspapers and reports that would probably make an ardent environmentalist cry—it usually takes me until well into March to break even, to have put all that Christmas gift reading in the past and be ready for something new. But here it is late April and the pile is still over a foot tall.
Believe me, it’s not like I haven’t been reading. Were you to follow me around for a day you’d find little piles of reading material wherever I alight for so much as a moment. I always have a book or magazine with me when I go to an appointment or meeting lest I arrive early, as I’m wont to do, and have not have any way to use the time.
Since Christmas I have worked the pile down some. Most of the books in the picture below that aren’t about photography were once in that pile beside the chair. But I’m beginning to accept that I’m not likely to get rid of this pile before Christmas rolls around again.

The After Pile, 2012

Tax Freedom Day hangs like a millstone on people who don’t like government. I think a lot of them are just contrary sorts. They won’t allow themselves to be happy. Anything they don’t like is just another symbol of oppression. My issue with this stack of books, on the other hand, is good old-fashioned guilt.  They’re not just a pile of books; they’re opportunities to learn and for my mind to be stretched with new ideas, new people, fresh emotions and maybe even some thrills. For me, those books are like the short stories at the back of The New Yorker magazine. I know they’ll be worth spending time with. But some days I just can’t get started.
Still, you really can’t put a price on anything that enables your imagination to stretch, can you?  As long as those books are there by the chair, I know I’ll never be alone. 


  1. Having books you haven't read yet is like having money in the bank.

  2. I agree with Terry although my stack of unread books takes longer and longer to disappear as my online reading increases by the day. At least I AM reading.

  3. I have a stack of unread books on my shelf, and most of them are yours! Second-hand guilt!

  4. If I had to escape a burning building, I'd be grabbing books to go out with me. Stacks of books are, in my mind, a very good thing.