Wednesday, February 22, 2023

The Books We Haven't Read (yet)

 My wife's Valentine's Day gift to me this year was to redecorate my office. 

She explained, "You spend like 80% of your time in there, so it should be as nice as possible", and, honestly, that's one of the nicest, most thoughtful gifts I've ever received. So we spent Thursday, nine inches of snow fresh on the ground, homebound, working in my office. Books were pulled off the shelves and the shelves were removed from the walls. Paint was applied, and old paintings and photos and pennants I'd collected over the years were consolidated and placed on a single wall, keeping the space directly above my desk blank, for now. 

It feels different in here. Because of her work, mostly, but also because, after the paint was dry, I worked in to the night, reshelving my books. 

That's always a magical feeling, placing your books back on the shelf, but this time, maybe because it was the first time I'd reshelved my whole collection without the stress of moving the whole goddamn house too, it struck me a little different. It's not that I was more critical of what I was shelving, but rather... distant, maybe. 

I'm sure a therapist would say it has more to do with getting older than a result of the redesigned space, but this time I was keenly aware that a lot of the books I was reshelving were, more than likely, never going to be pulled off again. Not to be read in full, anyway.

But instead of wondering why I am still keeping those books, instead of pondering the inherent power of a collection of books filling a wall, I started to think about the books I haven't read yet. 

Here are a few books from my shelves I have not read yet, and a brief explainer as to why. And when I hope to rectify that. 

Mystic River 

I think it was LOST that put this idea in my head. Desmond and his obsession for Dickens. I can't get into the convoluted nature of LOST here (to be honest, in part, I kind of don't want to remember), but there's a character on the show, Desmond, who has read everything Charles Dickens has ever read except for a single novel. That novel, I think it was A Tale of Two Cities, is the last novel Desmond wants to read before he dies. 

That's Mystic River, for me. 

Lehane was, and continues to be, one of my single greatest influences. His Boston is as much Gothic as it is a criminal Wonderland, his characters are always aching, always searching for something better, his plots are razor sharp, and his prose is immaculate. And if what everyone says is true, Mystic River is his masterpiece. I know I'll read it eventually, but I'm in no rush. Saving something for close to the end can only make it sweeter, right? I have no idea when I'll read this one, but just knowing it's out there is powerful, I think. Eventually, when the time is right. Maybe when I'm close to the end. 

Lonesome Dove 

Well, first, it's so goddamn long. Just looking at that book on my shelf, I can feel the weight of commitment grabbing my shoulders. But I know it's good. It has to be. And (check my other blogs in you don't believe me) I've had Cormac McCarthy on the brain for years and years and years now. Someday, it's going to be incredibly pleasant to get a different picture of the West in my head; something to replace The Kid and the Judge and the barren, baking, hellscape of the desert. And if that only lasts while I'm reading the book? That's fine. It'll still take quite a while. I'm hoping I can read this one this ear. 

What about you? Do you have any books you can't wait to read, but you're holding off, waiting for that special time? If so, tell me about them below, or reach out on Twitter @pauljgarth 


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