Social Question

nebule's avatar

Do you enjoy the idea of books more than actually reading them?

Asked by nebule (16446points) December 1st, 2009

I love books and in my mind I always think that I could read all day every day… but in actual reality I find myself choosing to do other things rather than read. But I find myself really longing for time with books, sitting in libraries, browsing book shops… cuddled up on the couch.

I think that really it might be that I like the idea of books and reading more than doing it. It sometimes turns out to be a disappointment… a not so great book,... distractions when reading, I’m not sure entirely but the magic seems to not be as great when I’m actually reading as I envisage in mind…

It might be that motherhood has changed my relationship with reading; I’m often too tired, I’m often too busy, there’s not enough time to really get stuck into a book, i.e. long periods of reading time, too many adult things to do, not enough time to find good, interesting, captivating books….

Anyhow, I wondered if your experience is similar at all? An old friend once said there is the “quidity” of books..the feel, the essence etc… might it be something to do with this?... something metaphysical or something symbolic about them?

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51 Answers

Zen_Again's avatar

I so know what you mean.

My magazines and newspapers, work and TV – they “get in the way.”

Just optimistically bought a few new books, though, while I’m still on the zebra’s novella he had recently mailed to me – whilst dreaming of reading Matt’s someday.

I fully intend to read said books, including one my son will be reading for school, just to be familiar with it myself – plus a couple of others I had liked – but will I?

Sadly, doubtful.

To end on a positive note: I insist on purchasing them anyway – to encourage the writers who (mostly) make a pittance from their tres important craft; enriching our lives and making the world a better place.

OpryLeigh's avatar

You have just explained exactly how I feel about books and reading. As a child I would read book after book after book however, as I have grown up I still love books and I am always buying them but, although I could easily make the time to read, I usually choose something else to do. I love the idea of being stuck in a great book but rarely make the time to do so. The last book I read that I couldn’t get enough of was The Secret Life of Bees way back in April. I am currently reading a book about the history of Gypsies which, when I make the time, I am thoroughly enjoying but so often I will start a book with good intentions but give up before the end because I have become bored with that particular book. I think if I read it regularly rather than just here and there I would enjoy it more but, as I leave it so long in between reading it, I lose the plot (!) and so, lose interest.

However, the good news is, I have found a solution. I have a part time receptionist job a couple of evenings a week and I use that time to read. It’s usually quiet and so I can read inbetween customers. This keeps the interest going and as there is nothing else interesting to do when it’s quiet at work I have no excuse! I often find that I am enjoying the book so much that my 5 hour shift goes quickly!

wmspotts's avatar

I feel the same way a lot of the time. Time constraints often prevent me from reading as much as I would truly like. However, I still have a rather large unread book collection. The “idea” of books by itself is novel (pun) because when reading you are forced to take your time and embellish your mind with the characters and setting. You can’t often do this with other forms of media such as film or live performances. Reading allows me get lost in the story and take my mind off of things. It’s a very good stress reducer. I find I run for books when I need to clear my head.

DarlingRhadamanthus's avatar

What a great question…....and one I have pondered…..a lot…especially when my ten foot floor to ceiling bookcase is filled and I’m wondering where else I’m going to put more?? (That’s because I filled five huge shopping bags with some to give away!) I will have to admit that I collect books…and have collections of certain types of books.

Books….when have I not had books in my life? I can’t remember. I also love the feel of books, the scent of books, the scent of old books and _new_books….the scent of
library books. Whenever I feel down….I head to a bookshop. Whenever I am bored, I head to a bookshop. Whenever I need to just feel inspired, I head to a bookshop. My favorite childhood memories are long, hot, summers spent in the library…reading and reading and reading and coming back the next day for more books.

And Amazon?? Fugetabowdit. It’s like someone opened a 24 hour 7–11 bookmart. I live in the sticks, and can’t support my favorite indie bookstores (like Portland’s Annie Bloom and Powell’s) so Amazon is a lifesaver. I managed two indie bookstores while going through university and no, there is little time to read. But I remember after hours, shutting out the lights and just sitting in the dark after a particularly busy day, among the stacks and feeling so peaceful. I was in my element.

It’s true (as all of you have said) as our obligations have risen as adults, there is not enough time to read. When I was kid, it was just a few channels on the tube and/or books. Now, there are Ipods, and the internet, 500 channels, satellite radio, Nintendo…and too much information to process. And being on Fluther doesn’t help…:) I read two, three and four books at a time….leaving them here and there in the house and picking them up and continuing them whenever I can. But the days of marathon reading for pleasure, when I had hours to do nothing more is long gone. I miss those days.

It isn’t just the idea of books that appeals to me…it’s everything about them. Books are my comfort blanket….they really make me happy…I can’t explain it. I love books. I’ve gone back and thanks to ABE found childhood books that I thought I would never, ever find again…I cannot explain to you how it felt to open up and read a book that meant so much to me as a child.

There have been times that I have gone into people’s houses and I leave thinking, “That sure was a beautiful house…but something was missing…” And inadvertently, it would be books.

I cannot imagine my life without books. When I pass on to the other side, I hope heaven is like Hay-On-Wye. :)

rooeytoo's avatar

I love to read but there is never enough time. That is why I like to listen to books on the iPod. I can listen while I am hanging out wash, or running or riding my bike. I listen to books all the time. I am just finishing Andre Agassi’s biography and wondering why we idolize jocks, they are as bad as movie stars.

I also like to have a book and other reading material in the “library” (bathroom) at all times.

And the iPod reads me to sleep at night.

CMaz's avatar

I love books. I like how they look and I enjoy what is inside of them.

I have my collection of autographed books, and antique ones.
But, I tend to display them more often then I read them.

Kayak8's avatar

I have books to read them. I don’t have any on my shelves that I haven’t read or intend to read within the next month (except reference books which get pulled out as needed). I have never even thought about having books for any reason other than to read them. This is a very curious notion to me—almost like having a garden in your house of beautiful things to look at. But I would miss the very smell and touch of books if they just sat on the shelf. Thanks for asking the question as I would never have throught about this . . .

cookieman's avatar

Great question – and this is so true for me too.

Over ten years ago, I worked a block from a great bookstore. I had a full hour for lunch, so I would eat while I worked and spend my lunch reading. I was there for four years – it was wonderful.

When the job burnt down, I was more sad about losing that “reading hour” than the job.

evegrimm's avatar

I don’t exhibit this at all…but I understand where you’re coming from. I’m this way about classics and the Penguin books I have. I would like to believe that I will eventually read them, but…yeah, right. :D

I am, sadly, horribly plebeian in my literary tastes. Or, at least, that’s what an English professor would have you believe. (Which would you rather read: a new Neil Gaiman book, or something Leo Tolstoy wrote?)

sdeutsch's avatar

@DarlingRhadamanthus said everything that I was going to say, and far more eloquently than I would have, so I won’t repeat it all. I’ll just say that I, too, love everything about books. I don’t think it’s so much that I enjoy the idea of books more than reading the books themselves – its just that as I get older and have less time to read, just having the books around me gives me that same warm fuzzy feeling that reading does.

The idea of a book isn’t quite as good as the reading itself – probably because the idea comes along with that little bit of sad longing, knowing I won’t be able to curl up with it and spend the whole day reading like I used to. But, in the absence of huge amounts of reading time, just thinking about and being surrounded by my books comes pretty close to the joy of reading them.

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syz's avatar

It depends on the book. I have about three categories in the books that I own. I will admit to owning quite few books that I don’t need and will probably never read (a review of wildlife preserves in Africa, guide books of butterflies, moths, dragonflies, garden insects, etc) just because of my love of books. I have what I consider my “serious” reading – books on conservation theory, current science trends, natural history writings, etc. And then I have my “fun” reads, usually paperbacks, in sci-fi, fantasy, and urban fantasy.

aprilsimnel's avatar

No, I love reading. I make time to read all sorts of books. I wish, however that I really could delve into “hard” science books. My attention wanders from them a few pages in. But science books geared to the the wider audience, like Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything, I was able to enjoy immensely.

syz's avatar

@aprilsimnel Almost anything by Bill Bryson is a good read.

J0E's avatar

I used to read a lot but I’ve fallen victim to this thinking now that I have the internet.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

I love physical books but somewhere along the line I got it in my head that buying them and keeping them around in stacks was wasteful so now I borrow, trade or get them from thrift stores then turn them loose again. The library has always been dangerous for me because I’ll come home with a stack and hole up just to read, ignoring people and chores. I’m resigned to hoping to be gifted a Kindle Reader so I can read on the go.

ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

I love reading. My problem is actually getting to the library and searching through hundreds of books to find one I’m interested in. I always find myself making excuses.

gailcalled's avatar

What is there to love about books but the reading? Otherwise, they are objets d’art, knick-knacks, bric-a-brac and dust collectors.

(Quiddity)

Ranimi23's avatar

I LOVE books now more than I ever. When I was 10–18 I didn’t read a lot. Now I’m reading so much that I don’t have a place to all the books I buy.

arnbev959's avatar

I have thousands of books. I have shelves and shelves, bookcases on top of bookcases, and on top of those I have vertical stacks of books rising like smokestacks all the way to the ceiling. I once measured the spines, and found that if I stacked every book that I’ve dragged home over the past eighteen years (I just can’t help myself, the books attach themselves to me like burdock thistles) the stack be three times as tall as my house.

Obviously, I will never read all of these books. But I love having them around. I love that if a friend recommends a certain book to me there is a good chance that I already have it waiting on my shelf for me.

I enjoy reading. My writing class was canceled this morning, so I spent the time sitting in my truck reading Italo Calvino’s If on a winter’s night a traveler. (Great book.)

I don’t always have a book with me though. Usually I don’t. It takes me a while to get into a book. I have begun reading If on a winter’s night a traveler several times, but never got past the third chapter. Now I’ve cut through the foggy opening and the author has got me where he wants me, and I can barely bare to put it down. (If only there weren’t so many distractions and interruptions.)

This past summer I spent two weeks alone in upstate New York. My days consisted of waking up, reading, eating, reading, walking in the woods, reading, working in the garden, reading, eating, reading, and sleeping. It was beautiful. If I lived like that all the time I would surely read more.

nebule's avatar

wow..thank you all for your responses so far…(and so many Great Question commendations!! I’m like…over the moon that you think this question is a great one) I thought it was just me and am so relieved to know that I’m amongst very good company

oh… @gailcalled my mistake…lol! quiddity…I do think there is more to it and I don’t think this makes them just objets d’art…

@DarlingRhadamanthus I am so going to make it my NYR to go to the Hay Festival next year…it’s a must!!

@Zen_Again love your answer, so honest and full of good intentions x

@petethepothead “Italo Calvino’s If on a winter’s night a traveler” = love it!!!! felt like I was on drugs when i started reading it! ...but alas I’ve not got past the third chapter yet… another NYR in the making…. you’ve spurred me on! you’re life sounds idyllic btw, where are you!!!

@aprilsimnel can I ask how you manage to make the time? is it no effort at all?? I’m envious :-)

aprilsimnel's avatar

@lynneblundell, it’s not exactly effortless, but it feels that way because I make time to read without thinking about it. The following most likely accounts for my being able to read at least one book a week:

A) I don’t have anyone to tend to on a regular basis.
B) I don’t watch much television.
C) I am a fast reader.

holden's avatar

I love reading, but it’s hard to do much of it outside the bathroom lately. And I’m a slow reader. It’ll take me a couple of months to finish a 800 page book. But the act of reading gives me infinitely more pleasure than thinking about reading. Sometimes I get so close to the characters in my books that I adopt their joys and sorrows as my own. My books are my best friends sometimes. :)

ruk_d's avatar

no… i love reading books. i guess i love the idea of books but i would rather have read the book and then love the idea of it existing. i guess its just silly to be loving the cover of a book just because it’s a book and never reading it. But i’m not a mother and i probably have more time than yourself to read a book. i usually read at night when everyone is sleeping after my day and errands are over with. I have more time now because i’m only going to school and not working. but even on my lunch break i ate and read. i guess if you really love reading books you’ll always find the time even if it’s not enough time.

absalom's avatar

There was a time when the idea of books (and the idea of being an intellectual) motivated me to read. Now the motivation has turned into genuine enjoyment and isn’t so selfish.

But I know exactly what you mean. As a student I have trouble finding time as well, and often I have to settle for smelling the inside of a book instead of reading it. I also feel the need to purchase the texts I have read or plan to read. I like to own them although it’s easier and cheaper to use the library. So I still frequent the university bookstore and add to the piles of (mostly) novels in my room that must be read.

Sometimes a love for books is useful, though. It has helped me complete a number of boring books (I’m thinking Robinson Crusoe).

cookieman's avatar

Another story:

My wife was a voracious reader her whole life. Always had a book going. Then she spent four years (nights) in law school and the crushing amount of required reading figuritively beat it out of her.

She hasn’t picked up a book for pleasure since she graduated in 2004. Just recently she mentioned getting a Kindle – so here’s hoping.

augustlan's avatar

I love everything about books, but especially the reading of them. Like you, motherhood changed my reading habits immensely, though. And then Fluther came along, and totally screwed me! ;-) I do almost all of my reading in short bursts now. I always have something to read in the bathroom, and I do most of my reading in there. There is no better place to steal a few minutes for yourself! I also do a lot of reading in my car, while sitting and waiting for children to emerge from school or wherever their busy lives take them.

Darwin's avatar

I am like @augustlan – I love books. I love having them, reading them, selling them, thinking about them, and even trying to write them. I own four classes of books.

The first are those I have read once but probably won’t read again. These generally sit in stacks or sometimes in boxes until I pass them on to someone else, sell them, or trade them at the local used book store.

The second are books I have read at least once but plan to read them again, and possibly again, and maybe even yet again. These go on the shelves in the living room so I can get at them easily. Arthur Ransome and Neil Gaiman are examples of two of the authors of such books.

The third are the reference books. I may never read the entire book, at least not in one sitting, but I will go back and refer to it again and again over the years. These tend to be gardening books, field guides, costume references, books about collectibles, science or history, and cookbooks. These go on various shelves depending on where I most likely will be when I need one of them.

The fourth are the books I sell. Many of them overlap with groups two and three, but some I buy just to sell.

I always have a book with me. I keep some in the car, to read while I am waiting somewhere. I keep at least one in my purse so I can read during the slow points of a game or when traffic is stopped for a long time, like the time Bill Clinton came to town and had to go to a pharmacy late at night when I, too, had to go to a pharmacy Secret Service agents love to feel important. The power goes to their heads. I have books in the bathroom, next to my computer, in the TV room, and on the back porch. In short, I read just about anywhere, sometimes for a minute or two and sometimes for several hours.

When someone was trying to describe me to the parent of one of my daughter’s team mates she said “You know, the one that reads.

My parents and siblings do the same thing.

drdoombot's avatar

I think @lynneblundell and I could be soulmates or something. I am enamored with books and the idea of reading, but don’t devote as much time to it as I would like to (most if it gets done in the bathroom). I blame the internet.

Reading the lifehacker and io9 blogs, browsing through nyt.com and checking in here at Fluther uses up several hours of my day, every day. I usually don’t spend much more than one hour on TV a day and I only spend about 30–45 minutes before bed reading comics, so the internet is the main culprit in stealing my reading time. If I spend an average of 3 hours a day on the internet, a conservative calculation would have me completing a book a week. That’s 52 books a year! I won’t remember half of the things I read on Fluther five years from now, but I might remember some books I read… Yes, I have a love/hate relationship with Fluther

The two solutions I’ve come up with are:
1. Cut out some internet reading – I used to read more blogs and stuff, so I’m already down to what I consider the bare minimum of blogs I want to follow. I also have this thing about being a completist, so I don’t want to miss a single post which I might find useful or interesting in some way. Similarly with Fluther, I’d hate to miss an interesting question (like this one).
2. Make a habit of reading – I don’t miss going to the gym in the evenings because I’ve developed a strong habit for it. Same thing goes for reading 2–3 comics immediately before bed.

The second choice seems more doable to me, though I’m not sure where to fit it in my day. Mornings after waking up, perhaps?

I wonder what it means that I choose to do other things instead of reading all these books stacked on my shelves and saved on my computer. Does it mean I’m not really a reader? That I like the idea more than the doing? But I love the doing as well, when it actually happens! I just seem to be doing less of it.

Another thing that occurs to me is that the internet has changed the way I read. I’ve grown so used to absorbing information in short snippets, changing subjects frequently, that I can’t seem to focus as well as I used to. When reading books, I sometimes find my mind wandering after a few minutes, about the amount of time it would take me to read an article online. My brain must be used to switching to something else every few minutes, making long bursts of reading more difficult to maintain these days. It’s also made studying, something I was always great at, a major chore. For all the access to information the internet has given me, I feel that somehow it is making me dumber.

In consideration of the above, maybe option #1 is the better choice after all. Getting off the internet might realign my brain to reading normally again.

dogkittycat's avatar

I’m afraid i don’t know. I love reading, i can and will ignore any noise or distraction and read for hours on end if I have the time. Someone could be talking to me while I’m reading and they’ll wait forever for a response because most of the time I have no idea that they were trying to talk to me.

holden's avatar

It’s good to know I’m not the only bathroom reader out there.

nebule's avatar

hello daloon! can’t wait….I wonder what type of reader you are… perhaps very much like me also? :-) knowing of course that you devote massive amounts of time to Fluthering I would suspect so… but yet also manage to be very dedicated to your books…? a bit like a magician…

jackm's avatar

I really enjoy reading, but I always forget how much I like it in between books. I often can’t put a book down when I am reading it, but after I am done I am not quick to pick up another. I would say I read more than the average person though.

wundayatta's avatar

It’s the internet what done it.

I used to read dozens of novels every year, in addition to three monthly fiction magazines and one weekly serious magazine and a paper every day. Then I discovered Askville, and things started to go to hell. I was getting manic, but I was still able to keep up with my reading. It was getting harder, though, and I dropped reading novels.

When I was diagnosed, I had to give up one of the magazines. It was making me too depressed. When I switched to fluther, I found a community of people who were very supportive of me. I needed you very badly, and that need grew stronger and stronger. I was supposed to try to stop, in order to help my marriage, but I couldn’t. So the next magazine went.

Now I read one monthly and one weekly magazine. I’m falling behind on the monthly. I have a dozen novels sitting on the shelf. They’ve been sitting there for a while now. I had a period a few months ago where I read three or four novels. It encouraged me to buy more, but now I’ve stopped reading anything except fluther and my weekly magazine.

I don’t just enjoy the idea of books. I love to read them, too. I’ve got bookshelves on three sides of my study at home. They go from floor to ceiling. There are completely full of books, sometimes two deep. There’s an overflow somewhere else in the house. My wife wants me to throw them away, but I can’t. A significant number of them are signed by their authors—with inscriptions to me, personally. My books are my memory of a way of life; of a fantasy about something different.

I read almost every single one of the books on my shelves, and the ones I didn’t read were not in my area of interest (science fiction). I love reading. I love books. But fluther has changed me. Now most of my reading is done here, and the rest of the reading is done on other internet sites. Physical books are falling away from my life.

The nice thing about fluther is that I don’t just read; I can write, too. I can reply. I can engage in a dialogue. You can’t do that with a book. Or you can, but it’s much more of a solo dialogue—if that makes sense.

Books do serve as inspiration for metaphysical maunderings (sorry), and as symbols. Then again, there is nothing without metaphysical or symbolic content. Books are both ideas and physical things. As far as humans are concerned, I don’t see how you can have one without the other.

These days, the idea of a book has transmuted. It is detaching itself from bound paper, and is slowly moving into virtuality. Books are now a certain set of code that can be displayed in many places in many different ways, using a variety of tools. There are cell phone novels in Japan. There is the Kindle. There are free books online. And so on.

And there wouldn’t be any of these things if there weren’t readers. There has to be a market, or no one will do it. So people can enjoy the idea of books and enjoy reading books, even if they aren’t reading books in the form traditionally found in our physical libraries.

nebule's avatar

lynneblundell (who didn’t know what it was until 2 seconds ago) shudders at the idea of” The Kindle”.... it even sounds scary!

DominicX's avatar

Well, I definitely enjoy the the idea of books and reading them. But reading them takes effort and time and college has been a great distraction and I often don’t find I have much time for books, especially right now when it’s time for finals.

However, I have a list of books I want to read and I do intend to read them.

smartfart11's avatar

I’ve never thought of that; I love reading and also I love books, like many people here have said. Usually, I have researched the books I read so that I know what to expect. I’m not sure why I do that, but I hate reading books that are disappointing or totally not my type.

absalom's avatar

One thing that @daloon‘s post makes me realize is that my love for tangible books bound with paper has not transmuted with the apparent (or apparently imminent) change of format, i.e. I feel no love or passion for the Kindle or its variations, and while much of my reading occurs on a computer via the Internet I know I do not enjoy the idea of digital literature. In fact most of the time (this moment included) I am telling myself, ‘You should be reading a book.’

Regarding the cell phone novels in Japan: what do you think that indicates? I see a willingness to find a new format for text/literature there, but I can’t imagine their replacing bound books. The Kindle at least seems feasible.

I think I am a literary Luddite.

sweetteaindahouse's avatar

Yes! I will see a book that looks interesting and buy it. I will read 2 or 3 chapters then have to read some book for school and write a paper on it. After concentrating on that, I have forgotten about the book and put it aside. I can’t count the number of books that I haven’t finished. They range from John Green’s Paper Towns to Al Gore’s Assault on Reason.

faye's avatar

I love reading, love books-how they feel and smell. I have a book in each bathroom, in my car, on my bedside table. I get lost in a book and my problems seem less after a good read.

Sampson's avatar

Yes, this is true for me. But once I do read a book, I regret nothing. My issue is that I feel overwhelmed when starting a new book because I make myself finish books, and I don’t like to waste time reading crap.

augustlan's avatar

@absalom Join the literary Luddite club. I can’t handle the idea of no paper books. I love everything about them, including the feel of them and the heft in my hands.

TexasDude's avatar

I’m the same way. I own over 3000 books and I’ve maybe read 2 or 3% of them. I buy books regularly, read a few pages, and toss them on a shelf/pile/make an improvised chair out of them.

I love books. The feel of them, the smell… but sometimes I just can’t get around to reading them, even if the topic interests me. I’m more of a collector than a reader. There is something sensual about the object itself that appeals to me more than the information within. (although I do read quite a bit, just not my own books).

LeopardGecko's avatar

I like to read books, my collection is small but I’ve read them all. I hate buying a book and not reading them.

augustlan's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard I collect antique reference and text books, just because I love to have them. I don’t read those, either. I own hundreds (thousands?) of books I have read though, too.

TexasDude's avatar

funny enough, @augustlan, I have a 1959 Encyclopedia Brittanica that I do read!

gailcalled's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard;

It’s probably the one that my sister and brother grew up with.

mcbealer's avatar

This is me. Unfortunately, I have amassed quite the collection of books I do not have the time to read. Sad but true.

smilingheart1's avatar

Absolutely, though hard to admit. Books are like tried and true friends, companions, favorite pets – - just waiting for your attention.

nebule's avatar

@smilingheart1 lurve for your answer

rooeytoo's avatar

I love reading (on my kindle), so no the idea of books is not more appealing than reading them. I just never seem to have enough time. My body seems to have only 2 speeds, that is full on or dead stop. I must strive for some middle ground.

(I just reread the answer I gave to this question in Dec 09 and it said the same thing, so I guess I have not improved much, heheheh! I am not listening as much on the iPod either, I have discovered Jango on my iPhone and that is so nice I am listening to that more than books on the iPod!)

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