I like books. So much for my compelling introduction. Reading books is a skill that we are taught from a fairly young age. As we mature we start reading different types of books. Some people read books that are mostly for entertainment: the Harry Potter Series, the Percy Jackson series etc. Others read books for their insights on humanity Diary of Anne Frank, Mere Christianity. etc. Other people just don’t read books, but I won’t talk to those people, because chances are if they are not the kind of people reading books, they are not the kind of people who will read blogs. Whatever kind of book reader you are, you probably haven’t thought about it.
I recently read “How to Mark a Book” by Mortimer Adler. My first thought upon reading his essay, was pity. Can you imagine trying to get through high school with a name like Mortimer. That poor kid. Like honestly what kind of a parent names their kid Mortimer? Just with the name, they effectively killed his chances at being picked first in any sport. No wonder he is so passionate about books being our friends, they are probably the only ones he has.
In his essay Adler classifies readers into three categories; the first category is the reader who owns a lot of books, but never reads any of them; the second is the reader who has read most of the books he owns, but never writes in the books; the third is the reader who marks up everything he owns, he may only own a few books, but he has read them and annotated them time and time again. Adler classifies himself as one of these readers, and says that this style of reading better because “A few friends are better than a thousand acquaintances.” He must have read that somewhere.
I personally am the second reader. I have read every book in my possession, except Lord of the Rings. A friend gave it to me as a gift, and try as I may, I just never could finish it. I have never willingly taken notes on a book, and I am OK with that. I read books for fun. I appreciate that books can be good for gaining knowledge, but I will leave those books to the scholars.
Now you might be saying Michael, don’t you want to improve yourself as a writer? Or if you are not on a first name basis with me you might be saying, O great blogger, don’t you want to improve yourself as a writer? Absolutely, but whenever I have read books and annotated them, it has led me to resent them. I definitely believe that reading a lot makes you a better writer, and I have tried to read critically, but I just end up being bored with the book by the end. If I start hating books, then I will start hating writing, and if I start hating writing, then I’m out of a job, and you are out of a blog to waste your time reading. I want to stay right where I am in my happy little bubble of reading books for fun.