Between Books

Every once in a while, I am briefly between books. I’ll finish what I was reading and go to the next one I have lined up but it may prove to be a dud. Or I just can’t decide what to read next (rare). And then I’ll be in a liminal, book-free zone.

Not to be reading a book is an unnatural place for me. I am unmoored and feel off-kilter. I don’t know what to do with my hands. I am used to having a story going at all times, one I can carry with me, literally, and return to whenever I like; one that I am usually thinking about, either actively or passively; one that compliments my daily concerns, gives me language, inspires my own writing.

Between books can feel harsh and lonely.

Is my reading a crutch? I have begun to think about it with more discernment, as opposed to when I was younger and it was just a given: I live. I read.

In the same way that I make more conscious decisions to give my attention and time mainly to queer authors, women authors, authors of color, I observe myself a little more: when do I pick up a book? Why?

I used to always read when I was waiting somewhere, even in line at the post office. Now I refrain, and try to observe and be where I am instead. It can be very rewarding, actually. Once when I was in line at the post office, I saw an older white man, rather trim, wearing turquoise hot pants that I am quite sure his wife wouldn’t have let him wear out of the house if she had known about it, but here he was, blithely taking care of some postal matters, legs much on view. And how glad I am that my nose wasn’t in a book that day! A rare treat, in this day and age, to see a straight man wearing hot pants!

Do I read too much? Sometimes I do a little food fast and I wonder if I should do a little book fast now and again. Allow my own thoughts to circulate without the focal point of a novel? Hmm.

The between-books wee taste of limbo is usually enough for me, though. I choose books over social media, movies, newspapers and magazines, tv and videos, online reading, pod casts, radio. Book information is the main information I choose to allow into my brain.

This period of life, my mid-50s, seems to be about going inward, offering up and concentrating on the insight and wisdom that’s been brewed up from all the previous years of gulping down information willy nilly. There’s an increased enjoyment, too, of say, really good genre tales, that comes about from having read so many bad ones in my life. Which in turn gives my own writing a boost or a twist or a depth.

I suppose if I wanted to be a Buddhist nun, I’d maybe have to give up novel reading because of it being so dear to me. My teacher would probably tell me that reading so much obscures clarity and hinders meditation and study.

But I don’t want to be a Buddhist nun, even though I do a lot of reading about Buddhism, so I’ll continue to read like the femme bookworm I am, fast, on fire, and with extreme dedication.

Published in: on December 7, 2016 at 11:56 AM  Comments (1)  
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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Excellent post. A subject I’ve never, ever read about! I don’t love that in-between state either, though I suspect I live there more often than you do, partly because I have less and less patience with inferior books and keep tossing them aside (figuratively speaking, when we’re talking about audiobooks on my phone!). Record number, this year, of unfinished, boring-ass books that start out fine and then fizzle, like what makes you think I should be interested in this? Didn’t you ever hear of editing or pacing? Right now I’m reading/listening to “The Warmth of Other Suns” (nonfiction) by Isabel Wilkerson, about the Great Migration, which is very good.


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