“Whatchu Readin’ For?”

I have a vast collection of books, many of which I have read. Okay, as far as jokes go, a better one is the Bill Hicks joke of this post’s title regarding a question he was asked by a waffle waitress. The focus is the wording of the queston, not “what are you reading” but “what are you reading for?” The punch line response was “for many reasons, mostly to not end up being a waffle waitress.”

Being inculcated by literature of all types creates varied attitudes about reading voluntarily as an adult. It’s something that if you do it’s because you enjoy it, though at times there’s a notion of reading books to get to the end, like some kind of check off a list of achievements. We’ve all witnessed some prick smugly mention having read an author like Dostoevsky with a certain sense of pride. And books can make us proud because they can make us feel good like any other form of art, and change us as people. But the pride comes within the enjoyment of the work, and from the transformation as it happens live. Investing a bit of every day for weeks or months of your life into a book can paint a feeling on a period of your life, much like the albums you are listening to.

The idea of reading books to get to the end is akin to doing anything in this world. Do we go to a concert for the enjoyment of the live music, or to say we saw the band? I hope in most cases it’s the former, though I sometimes find myself doing things to get to the end, like traveling. Sometimes it feels like the goal is to get back home and have a story and memory. This memory, however, does not come with regret. Considering I have written about running in the past that seems like a good example. Sometimes I’m definitely just running to get to the end, but ideally it’s about finding joy being present in the moment. It’s ok to feel bogged down by an overwhelming book or workout or adventure. But we do our best to savor the moment in the present and keep it as part of us moving forward. We don’t read books just to get to the end, and we don’t live life just to get to the end.

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