Too Many Books


“Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?”

-Robert Browning


I’m depressed.

OK, maybe depressed is the wrong word. I’m here in Big Stone Gap, knee deep in kittens, good food, and friendly people. I’m happy, I’m content. What’s better than living in a bookstore? It’s kind of a dream come true, right? So why am I…wistful?

I believe it’s the unavoidable realization that I will never be able to read as many books as I would like. This may not seem like a big deal. I mean, there are plenty of things I’ll never get to do in my lifetime, that’s what the Travel Channel is for. In the normal course of things, I can accept that my life will contain the pleasure of reading only a small, finite number of books. There are times, however, when I feel the weight of all those unread words. This feeling is strong when I visit libraries, and naturally, bookstores.

When I first arrived at Tales of the Lonesome Pine, the shelves bursting with books whispered possibility as only bookshelves can. The knowledge that I had all month to peruse left me giddy. Who knew? Maybe I’d take a gander at the romance section; I’m not proud. Or the Westerns. I’ve never read a Western! The craft section! The gardening section!!! THE MYSTERY ROOM!!!! It was all at my disposal. I imagined tiptoeing through the shelves at midnight, as The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy played softly in the background.

Two weeks in, I’m feeling a little less giddy. Maybe it’s because I’ve only finished two books since I arrived. Maybe it’s because I can’t decide what to read next. Maybe it’s because, with only two weeks left in December, the dream of endless reading possibility has been effectively cut in half.

I can take books home. As many as I want. But that doesn’t alter the fact that I will never read all the books on my ever-shifting list. Maybe this is OK. The ultimate Zen lesson. A reading life can never be fully satisfied. But why would you want it to be? Imagine the tragedy of actually, literally, having nothing to read. When I die, I will not have read the vast majority of the books my fellow humans have produced. Dreary thought? Perhaps, but I will certainly have enjoyed the time I spent trying.



6 thoughts on “Too Many Books

  1. I ponder those same questions almost daily. Although I don’t have a bookstore, I like to say the I AM a library. So many unread books in my home….all genres. When my grandaughter was little she learned to love to read, as did her mother and I, and a large number of her great granparents. Her commission in life is to read to me when/if my eyes no longer work….every nite, just as we read to her, even if it’s over the phone. So perhaps what I miss on my shelves will be read to me in bedtime stories farther into the future than I can see. Now is that luxury or what?

  2. Yes, it is a bit frustrating. I have books on my shelves that I really want to read, have really wanted to read them for years. It’s just that they keep getting shoved aside by the books that I really really want to read!

  3. When our daughter was very young, she learned – and immediately loved – to read. She still loves to read. But along the way she learned to write. And write so very well! Now we always love to read her mind!! Great post, Cookie!! 😉

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