I find it striking, and sometimes even a little bit depressing, how much of my life has been spent in books and in book learning. Last night and this morning, as I was readying my things to bring them with me on my annual pilgrimage to Tacoma , I pondered how many books I was going to be bringing with me to read. I had the two books I had picked up last night at the library, and both of those looked particularly interesting. I had two more books that I had purchased before a recent concert that interested me, not least because they were about plays. I had the three books I had finished reading last night that were owed a normal review and a fourth book I had read that night that added to the list of books owed a scholarly review that would take a bit more time. I had the audiobooks in my car, at least two of them because I knew that I would finish one of them by the time I returned home and wanted to make sure not to waste time on the road that could be spent in pleasant enjoyment of someone reading Jane Austen novels. I had four other books to finish in my usual work bag, including a book of Sherlock Holmes stories I have not been able to finish for many weeks because of the tyranny of the urgent, including many books to review that find their way happily into my library. And that is not even including the books that are on my computer that I have obligated myself to read and review within the next couple of months, even though I do not read as many ebooks as one would expect.
I find it striking that it is said that a substantial number of people never read another book even after finishing their studies for a bachelor’s degree. It is hard for me to conceive of such a thing, being as prolific a reader as I am. I do not say this to brag, or even to humblebrag, but rather as a statement of fact. To be sure, books are bulky, and are somewhat more demanding than more passive forms of entertainment, but being someone of a rich imagination I find the effort needed to read and understand books to be greatly rewarding. And, like anything else, once the mind has been disciplined to enjoy books, it enjoys them more and more. Reading books well, and enjoying them, feeds on itself. So does any other activity. What we enjoy we want to do more of, sometimes enjoying the same sort of material out of a love of familiarity, or perhaps a slight and occasional subversion of genre conventions to keep things from getting too s tale, and sometimes what we enjoy gives us confidence to move beyond, to read more challenging books as a result of what we have mastered.
The same is true, it should be noted, with other ways of spending one’s time. And there are always opportunity costs to be had. Time spent reading books cannot profitably be spent watching television or movies, or playing video games, or attempting to hone one’s poor skills at flirtation or courtship. It might be argued that there would be plenty of other ways that I could productively spend my time, ways that would be better suited to helping me better relate to those around me who might find my voracious appetite for nonfiction to be somewhat alarming or off-putting. I don’t consider myself particularly snobby about my interests. I do not mind other people having different interests than my own. I happen to know some people that spend many hours looking up sermons, others watching television shows and movies, still others listening to large amounts of music. Some people prefer that which is popular, and some deliberately seek out the obscure, and I enjoy those who share my interests as well as those who are able to provide insights on that which I neither have the time or inclination to focus on myself.
But much depends on motives. We cannot impute someone’s motives simply by what someone likes. A fondness for watching sitcoms, for example, does not speak ill of a person or their intellect or character. A fondness for reading obscure nonfiction books in several languages, such as I have, is not necessarily a sign of intellectual arrogance or a desire to show off one’s erudition. I would hope that, for all of the attention that I sometimes unwillingly receive, that whoring after attention and applause is not my motive. Sometimes our motives are mixed or hidden to ourselves. Some might rightly question, for example, the sort of love for fellowship that leads me to travel to a place that stresses me out year after year, perhaps hoping it will be different this time. Perhaps that is another reason to enjoy that which stretches one’s mind, if one puts oneself in the position of having to wrestle with so many difficulties. Sometimes one needs to move beyond the book to see how things look in life and not only on the page.
 See, for example: