I stopped by Barnes & Noble tonight and bought two books. One, The Penultimate Truth, a Philip K. Dick novel. The other, The Polysyllabic Spree, Nick Hornby’s new book about, well, buying and reading books. Hornby writes on page 14, “I don’t want anyone writing in to point out that I spend too much money on books, many of which I will never read. I know that already. I certainly intend to read all of them, more or less. My intentions are good. Anyway, it’s my money. And I’ll bet you do it too.”
Hornby’s right. I’ve bought books I’ve intended to read, then never read. I try to at least start a book, and if by page fifty I’m not completely hooked I’ll let it go. A good many Star Trek or Star Wars books in the mid-90s met with this fate, but I wouldn’t limit the victims of the page fifty rule to media tie-in fiction–even Orson Scott Card’s later Alvin Maker books met with the page fifty rule. Or, I’ll buy a book, say the fourth or fifth in a series, in the vain hope that by having it on the shelf that I will force myself to finish the first or second volume on which my reading jammed. I’ll consider an anthology read if I’ve read ten percent of the stories. Accounting gimmicks, psychological tricks, really.
I think it comes down to time. There simply isn’t enough of it, not to read everything that one wants to read.