Reading and Quality of Life, or, Why I Took Time Out of My Busy Professional Schedule to Go Look for a Book

It all started this afternoon when I realized about thirty pages in that the book I had taken out of the new books section of the library on a whim was insipid, vacuous, and a total waste of time.  The subject was the impact of the Internet on our lives, specifically from the viewpoint of those old enough to have experienced a time in their adult lives before the Internet existed – an interesting topic, thought I, and yet its arguments were not well presented.  It rehashed old ideas in a rather boring manner.  I decided to put it aside unread, which is rather rare for me.  Once I start a book I usually see it through, as I tend to invest enough time in perusing possibilities so that when I actually start to read I know what I am getting myself into.

Be that as it may, the decision to abandon reading this book initiated a crisis.  I read every day.  I cannot imagine a day without a period of time devoted to reading.  Additionally, I prefer physical books rather than digital books, so I cannot simply download something new.  The usual places I look for books are the library, used book stores, and the Amazon online and physical bookstores.  Of these options, I have been cutting down on used book purchases, not only because used books tend to have yellowed pages and poor binding, but also because Amazon discounts new books so steeply that I can often buy new books on Amazon for almost the same price I can buy used books from various local bookstores.

As for my options today, I was already too late for the library, which is only about eight blocks away.  This would have been my first choice, but this is Sunday, a day of shorter hours, and it would have been closed by the time I got there.  Then I thought that perhaps I could make it to the Amazon physical book store in the University Village here in Seattle and find a book there.  The prices are linked to Amazon’s online discounts, so I could get a book right away for the same price as if I ordered it instead of having to wait a few days for delivery.  Unfortunately, the Amazon store closes early on Sunday too.  I would have to make it to the bus stop within a few minutes to give myself about a half hour of browsing time.  So I made a run for it.

I missed the bus.

I do not, however, regret the effort.  I could have told myself that I have a lot of work to do and that in my financial situation it made more sense to chain myself to the keyboard and get it done.  But that would have been the wrong approach.  My financial struggles are ongoing and they’re not going to disappear overnight.  As it is, I work on all seven days, altogether about fifty or sixty hours a week.  In the midst of such a hectic schedule, my daily reading is one of the few times of relaxation I allow myself.  If I keep the pedal to the floor constantly I am going to quickly run out of gas.  I need to pace myself.  Life is not lived in some future dream world in which I have plenty of time to get things done and abundant money to satisfy all my whims.  It is lived here and now under the present circumstances.  And under these conditions, it made sense to me to cut loose and run for the bus to try to make it to the bookstore.  After I missed the bus, I took a walk in the bright warm sunshine and did another necessary errand before coming back to the keyboard.  Now I feel relaxed enough to get back to work, and later this evening I will put my mind to solving the nothing to read problem.

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