Oberlin Blogs

My book addiction

July 21, 2009

Chris Gollmar ’10

I have a habit of picking up library books that look interesting, checking them out, bringing them home, and letting them sit around for months on end. For the most part, I end up turning them in without having cracked them open more than a couple times, without having read more than a few pages. I’m not an avid reader by any means: in fact, I read pretty slowly and not very carefully. There are just too many interesting books in Oberlin’s libraries to ignore.

Of course, I typically have a lot of required reading and additional research for many of my classes. Those books pile up too, but I’m not really talking about them. I mean the books that I find by browsing recently acquired titles or look up after I read about them on some blog or on Wikipedia. Occasionally, I’m just curious about a subject and see what Mudd or the Conservatory library has to offer.

This summer hasn’t really been an exception. There is a growing pile of books on the floor, desk, and shelves of my bedroom. At last count, I’m “reading” eight books checked out from the Conservatory library, the main library, or one of the OhioLINK system libraries plus a few more that I own myself or friends and family have lent me. Inevitably, this makes for pretty slow reading all around, especially considering I do have a job and a handful of other things keeping me busy this summer.

So what am I reading? First, my mom lent me Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver and family, a sort of memoir about her family’s year spent eating only what they could grow themselves or buy from their neighbors. It’s certainly an exciting book to be reading in Oberlin, if only because I know I can talk with just about any of my friends here about the local foods movement and they’ll totally be on the same page with me.

Earlier in the summer, I thought my Spanish was going astray, so I checked out a couple of books from Mudd to keep it in my system. I’ve been wanting to read Antes Que Anochezca (Before Night Falls) for some time, so I picked that up. In wandering the stacks I also found a slim book by Argentine writer César Aira called Cómo me hice monja (How I Became a Nun). It seemed short enough, pleasant enough, so I thought I’d take it with me too.

Lastly, I have a respectable stack of books mostly from the Conservatory library about listening. I’m working on a sort of individual project (details later!) on the subject and wanted to do a little background reading. “A little” reading in this case is about six books (and another that I placed on hold).

In short, I don’t really know when I’m going to find time to finish any of these books. Of course, maybe what’s more important here is that fact that I have access to so many books that I haven’t read. (This concept has been called an antilibrary.)

Or maybe I’m just trying to make myself not feel so guilty about my book-hoarding addiction.

Responses to this Entry

Chris, I suspect you're not alone in the multi-book-tasking...

If you haven't seen the film of /Before Night Falls/, I highly recommend it. Strange, dreamy, intense.

Posted by: David on July 22, 2009 11:41 AM

Actually, part of the reason I want to read Before Night Falls is because I already have seen the film, which I enjoyed quite a bit. Of course, anything with Javier Bardem in it--in my experience--tends to be very good.

Posted by: Chris on July 22, 2009 12:02 PM

I recently discovered by accident that NOT even cracking open a book can lead to interesting things:

My friend gave me a copy of "Three Cups of Tea" which is about building schools in Pakistan. I read just the back cover and thought what is the point in building schools in highly risky areas of the world unless they can be insured against various types of loss?

I immediately came up with a brand new idea which is Islamic microinsurance for property. Then, only two days later, Taliban militants blew up a girls' school in Pakistan, thus highlighting the need for something like my idea.

Posted by: Charlie Stromeyer on July 22, 2009 2:10 PM

My mom is greatly enjoying Animal, Vegetable, Mineral, and I intend to steal it after she finishes/before I go back to Oberlin.

Personally, I'm loving reading The Art of Seduction (or as I'm calling it, How To Manipulate People In Every Aspect of Your Life). It's ridiculously long but intense.

Summer reading is one of the things I love about long breaks from Ober-school. I have the time to do it, and I love it.

Posted by: Ma'ayan on July 23, 2009 2:11 AM

I totally agree with this, from the antilibrary link:

"Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. The library should contain as much of what you do not know as your financial means, mortgage rates, and the currently tight real-estate market allow you to put there."

On a personal level, I just finished (I have 8 pages left) Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town, by Cory Doctorow, which I'd heartily recommend. There's a fantastic repeated line in it about books, as the narrator formerly owned a used bookstore:

A new character sees Alan's bookshelves, chocked with books.
Characters: "That's a lot of books. Have you read them all?"
Alan: “What’s the point of a bunch of books you’ve already read?”

It pokes around what an idea of a book's purpose is: to be finished, or to be read. I like puttering around with a book.

Posted by: Aries on July 23, 2009 1:32 PM

Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town looks good. I'll have to check it out when I have time...

Posted by: Chris on July 23, 2009 5:20 PM

Chris, I also like indeterminism in music. There is also physical indeterminism which means the opposite of both physical determinism and randomness. See, e.g., this recently published mathematical theorem about physical indeterminism called the Strong Free Will Theorem:


Speaking of books, when George Bush was recently our previous president, someone asked him what his favorite children's book was when he was young, and he replied "The Hungry Caterpillar" which was actually written when he was 21 years old.

Posted by: Charlie Stromeyer on July 24, 2009 11:09 AM

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