The road to good intentions is paved with library fines

A few weeks ago I attended a talk given by a local writer in which she stressed the importance of reading. I nodded my head vigorously in the self-righteous manner of the ‘well-read’. Until I realized I couldn’t even recall the name of the last book I’d read. When was the last time I’d actually read a book?

Sure, I’d received plenty of email updates from Goodreads; about all the books my friends had read. And I had – occasionally – glanced at said updates to see if there was anything I might be interested in reading. But as far as actually reading something…I hadn’t. Not unless you count skimming through Sarah’s Key at the beginning of summer.

Which, I don’t.

So one night, a week or so after being reminded of the importance of reading, I found my library card, got on the library website and placed holds on several titles. Initially, I’d logged on to ‘get in line’ for a copy of Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom. Because I didn’t want to spend $35 for a copy, thank you very much Indigo.

Apparently there were 385 people in Calgary who’d had the same idea before I did. Thus, if I hoped to read something in 2010, I’d have to reserve some other titles.

I settled on The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, which had received favorable reviews from some of my Goodreads-friends. Twenty-four hours later I received an email from the library letting me know that I could pick up the book. So I did.It was a thick book, containing more than 500 pages of writing. At this stage of my life, that’s a nearly insurmountable amount of reading.

I attempted to remedy my ‘when will I read this’ dilemma by leaving the book in the car. So it would be readily available on the odd occasion when I was stranded in my car with nothing else to do. (Like the couple of afternoons when I tried to pre-empt the timing dilemma that is Percy’s second daily nap, by driving to school a full hour before pick-up just so he could nap ..and I could read…were it not for the non-napping three year old who was also in the car.)

But when your only concentrated reading time occurs in the car, for five or ten minutes at a time, you don’t make much progress on a 500+ page book. After a couple of days of  no reading, I’d lose my ‘place’ and end up rereading a page or three. Which means I spent a couple of days going backwards in the book, rather than forward. Page 20 on Tuesday. Page 18 on Thursday.

And then more of my ‘holds’ arrived (The Book Thief) and (The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao). Suddenly I had not one, but three titles to conquer. And the latter had arrived in audio format. Apparently I’d clicked the ‘hold’ button without checking to see what I was ‘holding’.

‘Do you still want it,’ the librarian asked when I indicated my less-than-thrilled-ness with the CD’s. And, instead of saying ‘no, thanks,’ I said ‘sure’. Because someone somewhere had worked diligently to get me Oscar Wao on CD and I should at least have the courtesy of checking it out.

If only for the purpose of paying $0.70 in late fees when I returned it two days late. Without even opening the CD case.

Eventually, a day or two before it was due back at the library, I finished Edgar Sawtelle. I gave up on the car-reading idea and read it at home. And ignored my children on more than one occasion. And skimmed over a few hundred pages. Which was sad, because Mr. Wroblewski is a good writer, and he probably put a lot of effort into coming up with his lovely phrases.

[But, Mr. Wroblewski, I have three young boys. And your book is very long. And I honestly think you could have omitted a chapter or five, in the middle. And the end is kind of confusing, especially when you have three boys yelling while you’re (desperately) trying to…]

Triumphant from my pseudo-accomplishment, I began reading The Cellist of Sarajevo instead of The Book Thief. Which is how I ended up owing the library $0.40 for yet another unread book.

5 thoughts on “The road to good intentions is paved with library fines

  1. Thankfully my Mom still thinks I read and gives me books that sit on my shelf collecting dust. So when my guilt got the best of me, I trucked down and gazed at them. Didn’t manage to pick one up, but I gazed long and hard.

  2. I coulda given you my beautiful, hardcover copy of Edgar Sawtelle this summer. It woulda weighed down your car, though. It’s awesome owning a book of which I read, perhaps (generously), 30 pages.

    I loved Oscar Wao though! Get the book. It’s satirical, well-written, funny, and quick-paced. And not 500 pages.

  3. Hmmm… have you considered attempting something a little less…. heady?? After lugging The Pillars of the Earth around this summer like a ball and chain, I’ve opted for Harry Potter. Great reads and written for kids, so they go really fast!!! I totally didn’t think they’d be up my alley, but they’re pretty great. I try not to read anything intended for someone older than… 13.

  4. P.S. I’ve already paid over $20 in library late fees this year. Either I’m a bigger procrastinator or our libraries have very different fee structures. I think the smart money points toward procrastination.


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