Nice coincidence here in Dumaguete. The other night I put in alphabetical order the many books I have at home. I first divided them by language: Italian section, English and then Finnish. Then I ordered them alphabetically: first the Italian and then the ones in English. I also decided to mix fiction books with those of development economics and political economy because too many categories usually confuse. The books in Finnish do not have to be put in order for two simple reasons: they are few and Katja does not mind whether our bookshelves have a taxonomy or not. In this we are very different: I like to know that there is an order that organizes the books and for her it does not matter, it would be enough to organize the books according to the color of the covers. She privileges the aesthetic and subjective, I privilege the objective and categories.
At 23:30, when I finished I was happy that the bookshelves were finally organized, as if I had removed a light weight. I went to bed for a nice and quiet sleep but found myself unable to fall asleep. The following day we had Venal 5th birthday + while I ordered the bookshelves in the living room, I noticed that a I had not yet read several of the books purchased sometimes long ago. It was as if the books try to call my attention in the night. Even now, if I close my eyes, I see them in the bookshelves as if they silently shout to me: open to me! Read me! I can see some of the titles: Thaller & Sustein: Nudge (bought at the airport in Bangkok). Muhammad Yunus: Creating a World Without Poverty (bought the National Bookstore in Dumaguete). Fareed Zakaria: The Post-American World. Malcolm (Bangkok). Malcolm Gladwell: Outliers (Dumaguete). Proust: In Search of Lost Time (bought in Cremona).
Before buying these books, I read their abstracts on the Internet, their back cover, online reviews in Amazon. I know what they are about and while turning in the bed I remember an interview with Umberto Eco, who spoke of his home-library where he has collected thousands of volumes and the question which is often asked to him: have you read them all, Professor? He usually answers that hasn’t read them all and that a book can teach something even if you read a chapter or a few pages. At this thought I finally fall asleep.
Sunday morning. The bookshelves are clean and organized. I put the earplugs and listen to a podcast on my iPod: Fahrenheit, Radio 3 Rai. Paulo Mauri, for long time responsible of the culture pages of the newspaper La Republic, speaks of his passion for books, the unfulfilled ambition that all lovers of reading and literature have to read all the books that exists. An illusory ambition that inevitably turns into frustration as we have neither the time nor the opportunity to read everything. So we must carefully choose our readings. This is not always possible because sometimes we need to read books for work: for a review or for a research paper. This makes time needed for reading the books we choose to buy even more precious. Mauri mentions that he usually reads more than one book at a time and finds this ok. First, as mentioned by Eco as well, not all books should be read from cover to cover. Second, reading more than one book at a time allows traveling from one era to another, from a novel to an essay, from one language to another. It like when you you meet for an aperitivo with friends where you meet other acquaintances: a word here, a smile there, a joke here.
For some time I have also been reading more than a book at a time as if I had realized that with age the pace of time seems to speed up which diminishes the time available to read and learn. I think this is the main reason why I struggle to finish books. Paraphrasing Plinius the Old, all of those books gave me something: an idea for the incipit of a paper article or paper, a different point of view, and much more. All this is driven, similarly to all those who are passionate about books, by the desire to meet once again a book that once started one cannot stop reading, for which one wants the evening to arrive quickly to continue where we had stopped the previous night .What was the last book where this happened to me? Viaggi e Altri Viaggi (Travel and Other Travels) by Antonio Tabucchi which I read while traveling in Japan last summer.
Waiting for the next book ….
(Thank you to Google Translate for translation)