Charlotte Latvala: Plenty of books – now to find the time – News – The Times



Last weekend, our town library had its quarterly book sale.

For me, it’s Christmas, the Fourth of July and a Chinese food buffet rolled into one.

That is, a big celebration with lots of gifts, excitement and too many delicious choices.

I walked into the house and heaved my two bags full of books onto the kitchen table.

“Didn’t you just buy a bunch of books from the library?” said my daughter, looking up from her phone.

“That was three months ago!”

“Have you read all those ones yet?”

“Well, no, I haven’t read any of them. But that’s not the point. Look, I got all this for $13!”

The bargain price aside, it was an impressive haul. It’s always an impressive haul. I had a Man Booker Prize winner, a Pulitzer Prize winner and a National Book Award short-lister. Every time I go to the library sale, I buy a book by Jhumpa Lahiri, and although I haven’t read any of them yet, I know that someday I will devour them and I will love them and add her to my list of favorite authors. Probably.

Because here’s the thing. I love to read. Truly, there is nothing I would rather do in the world. (Other than eat Chinese takeout. Or read a book while eating Chinese takeout.)

And the book sale affords me the opportunity to take a chance on a writer I know nothing about, or pick up a best-seller I’ve previously scoffed at (shame on me but yes, guilty), or choose a book – against the wisdom of all mankind over the centuries – based solely on its cover.

So why all the unread books?

Number one: I am busy. Yawn. Everyone is busy these days. It’s our one uniting bond as Americans. Is “busy” a good excuse for not reading as much as I’d like to? Actually, yes.

Number two: I am an excruciatingly slow reader. I marvel when friends tell me they plow through a few books a week; they may as well be telling me they fly to the moon and back.

Number three (and most important): I am a habitual re-reader. My impulse, when looking for a book, is to dip into my pile of old favorites – how can you top Jane Austen? – instead of picking up something new. (One reason I joined a book club some years back was to force myself to read new or new-to-me books.)

I also gravitate toward giant five-volume tomes that will take months, maybe years, to crack.

Not to mention, there’s the pesky little voice in my head that reminds me I’m closing in on 60 and frankly don’t have time to waste reading a book that might not be any good.

But there’s another voice saying, “You need to take a chance on something, however small.” Which is why I’m trying one new menu item a month from my favorite Asian restaurant. And dipping into Jhumpa Lahiri. Right after I finish Emma.

Charlotte is a columnist for The Times. Follow her on Twitter @ChLatvala.


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