I just now finished reading East of Eden by John Steinbeck. I don't remember when or how it came to be on my "to read" list, but it did, and now it's done.
It's a long book, and deep. I didn't go deep into it, and often as I read I felt the urge to stop and mull for awhile, knowing there would be much to gain from ruminating on it. But that's not how I read, at least that's not how I read 600-page library books on their second renewal. I felt the need to devour it, snarf it down while time and momentum were in my favor.
And then a paragraph jumped out at me, and I read it over and over and then wrote it down, because it so aptly described my feelings.
"Samuel rode lightly on top of a book and he balanced happily among ideas the way a man rides white rapids in a canoe. But Tom got into a book, crawled and groveled between the covers, tunneled like a mole among the thoughts, and came up with the book all over his face and hands."
I think I would have enjoyed getting this book "all over my hands and face" -- there's certainly enough in it to get good and messy with. And yet that kind of digging takes a lot of time, and I'm not sure that this book is worthy of that kind of time. I know, I've insulted someone, many someones from various literary societies, likely.
But here's the deal. How much of my life do I want to invest in "getting" a book? I enjoy reading, but I often feel like I'm missing out on something else -- something real -- when I sit down with a novel.
A few days ago I passed on playing hide-and-seek with my family in favor of reading. I sat there on the couch distracted for a good three pages or more while I wrestled with whether it wouldn't be better to be engaging with my family. I read. I felt a twinge of guilt. I got over it. Mostly.
Perhaps at this stage of my life, there is enough pull of duty and enjoyment in other areas, that reading feels a bit like a guilty pleasure. It definitely is a pleasure. I hope it's not really too guilty, because there are still a lot of books on the "to read" list, and it just keeps growing! But perhaps I should start with the shorter ones, and for now stick to riding lightly on top of them.