DRMacIver's Notebook

Books are never finished, only abandoned

Books are never finished, only abandoned

I've been noticing something recently: I've really started to resent lending books.

If a book is good enough to be worth lending, it's probably good enough that I want to keep referring back to it, and lending out a book means that for an unknown amount of time I will lack access to the book.

I've turned this feeling into a feature rather than a bug: It helps me find out which books I really value. If I lend a book out to someone and find I'm missing it, I buy myself a new copy and now I have a loaner copy as well.

(This of course doesn't work that well with expensive or hard to find books. I'm going to solve that problem by not lending those books)

Part of why this has been interesting to observe is that it highlights some of my changing relationship with books. Instead of books being a thing to complete, books are part of an ongoing process of reading. The fact that I have read a book cover to cover doesn't necessarily take it out of that process. If nothing else, it just moves it into fodder for the writing practice.

A Book is a Tool for Thinking With, so a book is only done when you no longer need that tool.

This might be because:

  1. You've acquired a strictly better tool.
  2. You've internalised the book so well that you no longer need the tool.
  3. You're no longer interested in having the thoughts it enables.

In my experience this is roughly in increasing order of likelihood for books that were worth reading in the first place: You can hit the point of diminishing returns, but you rarely hit the point where you can't get anything out of a book, you just get to the point where you're no longer interested in doing so.