The most common form of diversion is reading. In that vast and varied field millions find their mental comfort.”
— Winston Churchill (Thoughts and Adventures, 1932)
As a younger man, I lived by an unbreakable rule: always finish a book. Even if a tome was mind-numbingly dull, I stuck with it to the bitter end. To give up on a book was to be a quitter. I am no longer that sadomasochistic youth. Now, fully ensconced in middle age, I am a curmudgeon where books are concerned. With the pressures put upon me by work, family, and the simple struggle to stay sane, I am very particular about my hardcover-and-paperback companions (I’m a traditionalist when it comes to books). If a story hasn’t grabbed my interest by page 100, I toss it on the heap destined for the used bookstore. Time is a finite thing, and there are too many books on my to-read list that I hope to tackle while I’m still on the right side of the grass.
My bookshelves are lined with many volumes I have yet to read. Some are titles I received for past birthdays and Christmases; others, I purchased myself but just haven’t got around to cracking the spines. Their day will eventually come—and, if they don’t make the grade, into the discard pile they go. In the meantime, there is something to be said for a crowded bookshelf. I enjoy being surrounded by books. They make for excellent company. Here’s an excerpt from an essay by Winston Churchill I’ve always enjoyed on the subject:
“What shall I do with all my books?” was the question; and the answer, “Read them,” sobered the questioner. But if you cannot read them, at any rate handle them and, as it were, fondle them. Peer into them. Let them fall open where they will. Read on from the first sentence that arrests the eye. Then turn to another. Make a voyage of discovery, taking soundings of unchartered seas. Set them back on their shelves with your own hands. Arrange them on your own plan, so that if you do not know what is in them, you at least know where they are. If they cannot be your friends, let them at any rate be your acquaintances. If they cannot enter the circle of your life, do not deny them at least a nod of recognition.
How’s that for some good advice?