There are so many new books from new friends in the online writing community. Collections of stories, memoirs, novels, poems. Wonderful jewels, just becoming polished. There are new books from old established authors who have been favorites for years. “I didn't know he was still writing!” Then there are new finds when one goes to the (few remaining) book stores. I can go in with a $25 gift card, absolutely and resolutely sure that this time I will come out with a couple paperbacks or one hardcover, and not go over the amount clearly stated on the gift card, but, well, an armload of “finds” later always proves me wrong. In my defense, when I didn't grab, pay, and walk away with them in the past, I would never remember or find that very promising book later. It would be lost to me. So now I grab them. (I know, writing them in a list could work, but it's not nearly as fun.)
Then there are journals, articles, etc. that are fun to read. There are also poems and short stories online from authors just sticking their toes in the community for the first time, people I would like to encourage.
Finally there are the old friends, the favorite books that sometimes are pulled onto your lap for a re-reading. In this fond ritual one calls forth not only the details of the book, the love of certain characters, the thrill of the best passage, but also the time and place of the time your first read the book. Do we not all have a book that is associated, perhaps, with a first girlfriend or boyfriend, or a time at a cabin next to a lake, or some other time of our life?
For example, as a gangly teenager, there is Beneath The Wheel, from Hermann Hesse, that captured that feeling that the world was not always kind. Or reading the poetry of Robert Duncan sometimes reminds me of the freedom I had as a young adult, able to pick up and go to a city within driving distance on a moment's notice to hear an author and search for new treasures at an obscure big city used book store. Another book for me that holds that special place is Lord of the Rings, because my wife, whom I had just married, made me read it. We had picked up a used copy at a used bookstore in San Diego where we had just moved. It was a dusty, somewhat but not completely organized shop, and that made the reading all the better because we felt like we lucked into finding the last copy of the book that this store had. So re-reading that book brings back memories of adventuring as a young married couple in San Diego, not only adventuring in Middle Earth.
Then there is the time I should spend on my own, reading about writing, and actually writing. There is simply too much that we can do, and not enough time, what with jobs and other intrusions of the world.
So how does an aspiring author, someone who treasures the online friends made, and someone who loves to slip into a couple hours reading a favorite established author once the sun has slipped away, how does one balance and choose? I would stay and figure it out, but one of the books I have picked up a couple weeks ago is calling...