Tuesday, July 9, 2013

My Reading Dilemma

    I have a dilemma. I have calculated that I will most likely die before I get to read all of the books I want to. Indeed, my life is reflected by a sentiment I once saw on a T-shirt: So many books. So little time.
     This is, as the Internet likes to point out in hashtag fashion, a First World problem. I'm not in danger of starvation. I'm not likely to be killed by an IED. I probably won't be lured into prostitution by the promise of a job in another country.  Still, there are so many books I haven't yet had time to read. And, just for fun, I'm going to blame ... the public education system.
    It all began back in the first grade when I was required to read about Dick and Jane. At six years old, I had already determined that the Dick and Jane books didn't have the kind of action that I needed to stay interested in reading.  I much preferred Go, Dog, Go, which was available in the school library, but which wasn't required reading. (The links are included for those too young to remember what I'm talking about.)
     This theme of schools and schoolteachers requiring me to read exceptionally dull, but supposedly educational material, continued throughout my years of schooling.  My father was in the military, so I attended more than a half dozen schools by the time I got to 12th grade.  In every one of them, students were assigned reading that could put a caffeinated giraffe to sleep -- if giraffes were able to read.
     Keep in mind that I love reading, so I can only imagine how my friends who didn't like reading got through such dreck as Moby-Dick or, worse, Bartleby The Scrivener. I also hated having to read The Metamorphosis. What did I like? Lots of stuff.  Mark Twain, Charles Dickens and Edgar Allan Poe were far better writers, or at least told better stories, than Herman Melville, Henry James or Henry Fielding. Why couldn't I have memorized passages from Neil Simon plays instead of having "Friends, Romans, countrymen" stuck in my brain for a lifetime?
    I will now irrationally rationalize that the time I was forced to spend reading Shakespeare and all of the other alleged literary greats has led me to my present dilemma.  If I had back the time I slogged through the Tragedies, the Histories and the (ahem) Comedies, I could use that time to read what I want to, not what I have to. (I can tell you're beginning to see my logic.)
     And because I want to read more books than I'll have time to get around to, I must decide which ones get priority. I am in the midst of Vince Flynn's Kill Shot and Michael Connelly's The Black Box. But waiting in the wings is The Heist co-authored by charming man-about-town Lee Goldberg and super-mega-ultra bestselling author Janet Evanovich.
     Here's the thing. I love Goldberg's work, especially his series of books based on the TV show Monk. But I'm not really a fan of Evanovich.  I've read a handful of Stephanie Plum novels, but have found them only mildly amusing.  So my innate pessimism tells me their collaboration may end up disappointing me.
      Let me also say that my personal reading tastes exclude a lot of "best-selling" authors.  In addition to Evanovich, I'm not particularly fond of James Patterson or Stephen King. On the other hand, John Grisham, John Sandford, and the late Michael Crichton all occupy space on my bookshelves.
     So what am I to do? I can't get back that stolen time from my school days, so I will forge ahead and read as much as I can. And, so I don't leave the impression that all of my assigned reading in school was a waste, I should mention that I wouldn't have discovered Ray Bradbury's "The Veldt" on my own, nor Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery." Of course, those were short stories that didn't take up an entire semester.