Anticipating the expanse of time I was going to fill turning of pages, I brought several books with me--one of Madeleine L'Engle's Crosswicks Journals, The Right to Write, and an advance copy of a novel that I plan to review.
Upon arriving at the house we were renting, I noticed the bookshelf. I could have snatched up Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods, or Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier or selected a Maeve Binchy paperback, but a black and red striped spine jumped out at me shouting, "Read me! Read me, now!" I felt that I had to seize the opportunity that this stocked bookshelf offered me to read an acclaimed novel that has been on my master list of books that I would someday like to read. The actual order in which these books get read--or if they get read at all--is due to a number of circumstances. Having a book sitting on a bookshelf in a house that I will leave in four days immediately catapulted it to the top of the list.
Within the first few pages, Water for Elephants had me hooked. Author Sara Gruen impressed me with her insight into human nature. Perhaps this particular observation fell on open ears because I have been struck with exactly the same problem since October when I turned 37 years old:
I am ninety. Or ninety-three. One or the other.
When you're five, you know your age down to the month. Even in your twenties your know how old you are. I'm twenty-three, you say, or maybe twenty-seven. But then in your thirties something strange starts to happen. It's a mere hiccup at first, an instant of hesitation. How old are you? Oh, I'm--you start confidently, but then you stop. You were going to say thirty-three, but you're not. You're thirty-five. And then you're bothered, because you wonder if it is the beginning of the end. It is, of course, but it's decades before you admit it.
People always ask me how I have time to read. I can give a variety of reasons, ranging from "My house isn't very clean," to "I don’t watch as much TV as I used to," or lately since I've undertaken a weekly review column, "It's my job." But I think I have another answer to add to my arsenal: "When a book calls to me, I answer it." You may finish it off in two days as I did on vacation, or it may take two weeks. When you've finished that one, open your ears so that you'll hear the next book that is waiting to be made yours and you'll always have time to read.