Like many people who spend too much time online, read fewer books than I’d like. It’s not that I don’t read as many words as I once did. I read blog posts in Google Reader, updates on Twitter, message board posts in many places, email, and long articles in Instapaper. And my temptation is often to play a computer game, watch a TV show, or catch up on various online reading when I have leisure time. While I enjoy all that stuff, it’s just not the same as diving into an interesting nonfiction book or a gripping novel.
For years I’ve been trying to figure out how to get my incentives to align with my abstract desires and start reading more books. My new theory is that I’m more likely to read books if I check them out from the library. I am a deadline driven person, and when you check books out of the library they come with a deadline. You have to give them back whether you read them or not. The other difference is that buying a book is a commitment. You spend money on it, and so it’s worth looking into carefully to make sure you’re buying something that’s really good. Books are sacred. On the other hand, if you check out a book from the library and it’s not your cup of tea, you put it down and drop it off on the way home from work the next day. No pressure.
So today I went to the library and got a library card and checked out Rosecrans Baldwin’s novel from last year, You Lost Me There. I knew his name from The Morning News and I have enjoyed his commentary on Layer Tennis matches so I picked up his book on a whim and now I have until April 25 to read it. We’ll see how it turns out — first I have to finish reading this issue of National Geographic from last September.