The abundance of books is distraction

Another package arrives and my first thought is the joy of packages. It’s an conditioned response from decades of birthdays and Christmases. Despite knowing what’s inside there is an element of anticipation when I unwrap yet another book that I could not help ordering. Yupp, another book. The joy of holding the book is only marred by the sinking feeling that I should be writing faster, better and to be blunt about it, more. Just more.

There is a sadness in living in a time when there are enormous amounts of books. Most of the books I buy are second hand copies where the postage costs more than the content. Today the gorgeous On Paper: The Everything of it’s two-thousand-year history by a self-confessed bibliophiliac by the prolific Nicholas Basbanes. Thankfully, in this case, the book cost more than the postage.

Read Books by Wrote. CC BY.

But then I leaf through the book, marveling at all the letter, lines, paragraphs, chapters… The weight in my hand and the need to read it. Now. Read. Now. But, there is a pile of necessary books. All relevant to the project and this is just one of many. Place the book in the already precariously balanced pile and sigh while I think that the abundance of books is distraction.

The only thing that calms me is the thought that these words are neither original nor my own. Seneca wrote that the abundance of books is distraction (distringit librorum multitudo). Getting lost in so many books is unhelpful. Anne Bair quotes his explanation to what he means (in another great book: Too Much to Know: Managing Scholarly Information before the Modern Age)

You should always read the standard authors; and when you crave change, fall back upon those whom you read before.

And yet, here I am with another great looking book on my desk. It demands my attention and offers me the chance to procrastinate. Reading is not laziness but research, its not procrastination, it’s preparation. And yet the more I read the less text gets produced.

So I do neither: I blog my dilemma.

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