Reading is like an unquenchable thirst that promises a sweet nectar with every page turned. No matter how much I read, no matter how fast or slow, I feel a dull ache with every book I finish, and an empty gaping hole staring at me until I fill the void with a new treasure.
This thirst causes me to buy books endlessly. I must always keep at least 5 yet unread books at the ready should I a) come across a book that doesn’t do justice to the hunger I had to read it in the first place or, b) finish a book and yearn to immediately dive into the next. The fear of not having enough to read, or even more, not having the best of the best – a page turner, if you will – available for consumption keeps me with ever-stocked shelves (literal or electronic,) of new literature or non-fiction.
The best part about keeping books on hand is every time I open a new book it becomes something I get to discover. I slowly unfold new characters, new settings, new eccentricities, new styles of description. The whole world within those pages opens before my eyes and my imagination takes hold to create a world full of visual and even aural details. In my latest book I am taken to the workshop of a taxidermist described so precisely I feel I am sitting across from his desk watching him marvel at a perfectly preserved Howler Monkey he prizes highly from 30 years prior. Or even taking a bite of the juiciest and plumpest pear described with such precision your mouth waters at the sensory buffet lain before you.
I often want to share my joy of reading with others only to remind myself they don’t belong to that world, but to another one completely. They are not lost in a different era as in The Time Traveler’s Wife or caught up in the worries or fantasies of a teenage hermaphrodite as is the main character in Middlesex. And in some cases the heyday of a particular piece might lie in a time long forgotten, even though the story unfolds anew for me alone whenever I choose to indulge. As Yann Martel put it in Beatrice and Virgil, “Because though his novel belonged to his past, it was fresh to every reader who read it…”
Reading is a pleasure I wouldn’t give up for the world. Where would I be without the pure human essence of the Paulo Coehlos, the heart wrenching love affairs of the Anita Shreves, the self-discovery of the Judy Blumes, and the laughter and originality of the Bill Brysons?
And so I keep my shelves stocked full of my next favorite books, patiently waiting until I pick their spine from a number of other eager and worthy candidates.