Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A good book is hard to find

When I was a kid, I read books like a madman. I'd hop on my bike and race to the Victor Free Library - an old train depot in Victor, NY - and get lost in all of choices available to me. I could spend hours walking through the stacks, picking out what spoke to me on that particular day, and would leave with at least three or four books tucked under my arm for the ride home. I'd quickly devour them and be back at the library in a few days to find more treasures. 

But these days, I'm finding it more difficult to read books. More often than not, if a book doesn't "catch" me in the first few dozen pages, I'm done with it. And not many books are "catching" me. The last book I finished was "The Girl Who Played With Fire", the second book in the popular Stieg Larsson trilogy. It started out fine, but by the time I reached the last 100 pages or so, I was speed-reading and racing to finish the damn thing. 

I love magazines. Always have. It's kind of a rush for me to go to a bookstore or newsstand and see rows of magazines in the racks. I relish picking them up and flipping through the glossy pages. Magazines are great because they can immediately satisfy my need for information or entertainment. Magazines allow me to be more fickle - I can quickly scan articles or revel in more in-depth pieces. And if a particular article bores me, I can flip the page.

So does my lack of commitment to getting through a book - and preferring the quick-hit nature of magazines - speak more to my short attention span tendencies, or to life in a world where we're all so used to multi-tasking that it's increasingly difficult to focus and savor the slower pace of a good book? 

We're going on a beach vacation in a couple of weeks, and I'd like to think I could find a book (or two) that I could enjoy. But I find myself already stock-piling magazines to bring with us. 

Is anyone else having trouble committing to books these days, or is it just me?


  1. I guess I'm in a different boat on this. Since I'm in grad school, I relish the chances I get to read novels and have a stack waiting for me to go through. Magazines are fun but I always get bored with them because of how quickly I thumb through them. I think it is all about what else is going on in your life. Maybe finding that perfect book just doesn't work with your currently lifestyle. Because novels are a treat for me instead of school textbooks, I savor them. Who knows though. Maybe you're just being picky :D

  2. I go through reading phases - sometimes I have two books going at once and other times I can't get through even two pages. I could be reading between the lines here, but even though you like the quick hit of a magazine, it sounds like you are nostalgic for books. Maybe you're just in a reading slump and need a really amazing book to get you back into it?

  3. Hey Mike,
    Check out the local library. Not sure where it is in Southie, but I've recently been going to the S.E. annex. I'm a sucker for mystery novels and have been devouring Robert Parker's Spencer for hire books.


  4. Demotheus: Too picky? Right on target! Maybe Julie (below) is right...i need an amazing book to get me back into the swing of things. Know what book I loved? East of Eden by John Steinbeck. Read that at the beach a couple of years ago, and passed it along to several family members, who devoured it as well.

    Bosguy: you're the second person in a week to recommend Robert Parker -- so i've just purchased the first book in the series (The Godwulf Manuscript) and downloaded to my iPad. Wish me luck!

  5. I have the same childhood memory--spending hours and hours in the library, getting lost in the pages; Thumbing through all the books on the shelves, the unmistakable scent scent of years' old, heavily fondled books. I still, as an adult, love the visit the library in Copley just for the smell and the quiet and, of course, the mice that live there, too.

    I too have a difficult time weeding through all the books 'everyone else thinks you should be reading' and actually finding something that holds my attention.

    A couple I've read in the past year and loved were "The art of racing in the rain" by Garth Stein and "The Help" by Kathryn Stokett. The latter holding rankes among my all-time favorites.

    I've also read the first two Stieg Larsson books so, as it happens, I feel beholden to read book three even though I didn't exactly love the first two.

    Mostly I read the classics. I just love them, books written before the influence to make a list of some sort, or influenced by other book. Books--just written. That's what "catches" me.

    P.S. Have a wonderful beach vacation. Sounds like a relaxing time.



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