I have always thought that being a bookworm was the coolest thing. I always fancied well-read people as the most intelligent and interesting of all. I admire deeply those people who read more than a hundred books per year (do they ever sleep though?) and I always grow some irrational respect for somebody that name-drops a fancy obscure literary reference in the middle of a conversation. (I should not, these are horrible people)
Logically so, I strove hard to reach that bookworm status. Like those lost souls who buy glasses without correction in order to look like naughty scholars, I started to buy books rather compulsively when I started college and felt a growing satisfaction at the sight of these elegant hard copies of Proust, Brontës, Kerouac, Wilde or Cervantes progressively filling my shelves.
Prior to each purchase, I would project myself deep in love with my new book that I would – according to me – instantly devour. I could picture myself reading nonchalantly in the subway, on a park bench or nearby a fireplace wearing a robe with my initials embroidered (and smoking a pipe). In all those scenes I looked both naturally gorgeous and supremely intelligent. The reality of course was slightly different.
As a languages and literature undergrad student, I had assigned readings that were not as glamorous as my purchases, but they were my priority. However, as one knows from experience, the more pressing the priority, the more intense the urge to procrastinate.
This resulted in the creation of a reading list, or more concretely, of a reading pile on my night stand. At first it was a cute little pile of four or five books but then, as the years passed, it completely blew out of proportions. The pile became a full IKEA bookshelf from which I had barely read a third of the books. Even being abroad and fully aware of the incongruency of this binge buying, I still have about fifteen books on my shelf.
There are certain pleasant aesthetics that come with that ideal of being an avid reader. How many people (included myself) feel the urge to post well elaborated Instagram pictures of their reading (whether they are actually reading or not) ? We all know somebody who pretends he completely understands Joyce’s Ulysses and who lets you know it with a Nashville filter. We also all have that Facebook contact that constantly publishes quotes from authors they probably never read.
I don’t blame these people (I might just judge them very silently) as I am in no way better than them with my constant buying. But I took the resolution not to continue in that direction by actually reading in a more rigorous and constant manner. Because as pretty as an IKEA shelf filled with books might look, having no answer when a friend asks you how you liked Swan’s Way – that book that has been hanging out at your place for 7 years now – feels pretty ugly.