I buy books. And sometimes I read them. This blog is for the times when I do more than just store shelf candy.

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Dog Ate My Books and Other Excuses Why I Stopped Flipping

Ever since I got into a book club back in 2007, my reading life has flourished. In quality and quantity. If memory serves me right, I pushed myself to read 50 books in 2008, 60 in 2009, and 70 in 2010. I also joined a few reading challenges, including the A to Z Challenge, where we had to read 26 books, each one representing a letter in the alphabet, based on author's surnames.

Then in 2011, I failed in all my quantity and genre challenges. Last year, 2012, my reading life screeched to almost a full stop. My reading life deteriorated so much that my best and worst books were the same book. I did not read enough books last year to justify a selection process.

I did try. I never completely stopped reading. I remained the kind of person who gets antsy when stuck without anything to read in a grocery line. I tried to read most of the books we had for our club's monthly book discussions. Tried. I read enough chapters to participate in the discussions, at least those I got to attend. But I failed to complete any of them.

Count of Monte Cristo, Geography of Bliss, Game of Thrones, It Must've Been Something I Ate--all half read. Not because the books were bad, but because I was just a bad reader.

But why? What happened? Well, the dog ate my books.

Following are the rest of my excuses:

Because I have to. Those who knew me in high school knew that books, at least those I had to read for school, remained crisp, clean, unread all throughout the school year. I did read back then, but my books were those I was not allowed to read. Books my mom tried to keep from me--books by Harold Robbins, Sidney Sheldon, a fair amount of Mills & Boons.

But I rebelled against reading text books and other required reading.

And whoever forced me to read The Old Man and the Sea is the one to blame. Whose bright idea was it to impose this story on  high school kids? I mean, really. We were the first generation to grow up on fast food. If we wanted tuna, all we needed was a can opener. And so this story was sheer torture for those with undiagnosed attention deficit. The battle between man and fish--who friggin' cared? I didn't. And it was painful that it took too long for nothing to happen.

So I learned my lesson and left Iliad, Dante's Inferno, Florante and Laura, and other books unopened. I had to read Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice, mainly because I had to act out the parts of Shylock and Portia. But I only read the parts I had to memorize.

I hated required reading. And it was Ernest Hemingway's fault. It would take decades before I forgave him enough to watch the Chris O' Donnell-Sandra Bullock movie adaptation of Farewell to Arms.

So the point is: I have a built-in aversion to required reading. And inasmuch as reading with my book club is fun, the have-to part of it makes reading a bit of a task.

Because it's too sad to read. In 2011, my sister's brain tumor decided to make a comeback, and one of its sad effects on my sister was a degree of blindness that made it really hard for her to read. Helping her son through his homework made her dizzy. And I felt, even though I knew I shouldn't be, guilty to be able to read. Somehow, that robbed me of the joy of reading. And when she passed away that same year, I got too busy drowning my sadness in potato chips and drenching my heart in soda to really make reading a priority. I don't want to wallow, and I certainly don't want to use my sister's death as an excuse, but I mention this here because on hindsight, I did realize this was one of the main reasons reading temporarily lost its appeal.

And today, to think positively, I just appreciate the blessing, the privilege of being able to read.

Because my brain is tired. Work. Traveling for work. Work and more work. That's the usual excuse for not being able to read. And I'm going to use that convenient excuse. Because it's true. The past couple of years were crazy. And out-of-town training trips made me miss a number of book discussions, which lessened the urgency and the desire to read the book for the month.

Plus, when your job requires a lot of reading and writing, and reading and rewriting other people's works, when the time comes to rest, the last thing you want to see is words.

Because IPad. I don't really have to explain the highly-distracting power of the tablet, do I?

And the next is the strongest reason, my top excuse.

Because I am old and now need glasses.  For all my life, I have abused my eyes. Because I'm rebellious. And my mom's shrilly nagging--"Don't stay too close to the TV, masisira mata mo! Stop reading in the car! Stop reading in the dark. Stop reading when it's too bright!"--just made me do the opposite. Despite the abuse, the doctor still told me that I was going to have 20/20 vision until I hit 40.

At that time, 40 seemed too far away, and I was, in fact, hoping to need to wear glasses because they're cute and sexy.

Then I hit 40, and my eyes were just fine. And I would smirk, feeling superior to my peers who held their phones a kilometer away from their faces, with their eyes squinting as if they were reading the E D F C Z P line of the eye chart. Back then, I felt maybe my doctor's prediction was wrong, and I was really one of those with super vision who would never ever need glasses.

I was 43 when the superpower delusions came crashing down. But even then, I only needed reading glasses. Which meant that I would normally feel that my eyesight's normal, could walk out of the house, drive away, and not feel any vision impairment. And then I would find myself with time to read while in a waiting room, and I would realize I forgot my sexy glasses at home. Dang. And that happened often enough (because vision impairment comes with memory loss) that I just got out of the habit of reading in waiting rooms and payment queues. Goodbye, ambitious reading targets.

I also realized that there's nothing  sexy about asking the sales associate to read the price ticket for me, "Ineng, pakibasa."

My eyesight is not really that bad. My prescription is only for 100. I can still read a regular book or a document with font 11 text, but the lighting has to be good. The book and I have to be still to minimize blur. But I can read only for a few minutes before my eyes feel the strain. Eyeglasses now required. Three years after I started needing them, they remain pesky little things I forget to bring with me. I have tried solving the problem by buying several pieces that I have placed in all the strategic places where I might need to read. So far, it's working. So far, I've been flipping more than before.

You guessed it, our dog really did not eat my books. Isa, our black labrador died of old age few years back. I offer no excuses. But understanding the reasons why I stopped reading has helped me find ways to work on ways to revitalize my reading life.

I'm back flipping.


  1. Never had so many books courtesy of so many free books for Kindle and low priced books from Book Sale and Books for Less. Then my sister in law decided to clean up their house and I bought P1,000 worth of P25 books!!! Alas! That also means so many unfinished books for me- by my bedside, on my Ipad, in the toilet, on my craft table.... goes on and on. No such thing as too many books? Hmmm, have to rethink that!!!! Patsy

  2. Yes, Patsy, I have to admit there are way too many books. But that doesn't stop us from acquiring, right?

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