aging Books recreational reading

Evolution of a Reader

By James Van Pelt
Mar 5, 2021 · 447 words · 2 minutes

The best way to spend a Saturday!

Photo by Sincerely Media via Unsplash.

From the author: Most everything in the world changes over time. I didn't realize that would include my reading habits.


Until I finished college, I read constantly at the two to three novels a week clip. I remember the delirium of discovering THE HOBBIT and THE LORD OF THE RINGS when I was twenty. Somebody had donated a copy of THE HOBBIT to the "take one, leave one" book table at the student union. I lost a week (and a couple classes) to that reading experience.

But once I finished college and started to work, my reading dropped off. Writing made it worse, since writing time and reading time exactly coincide. So, lately, I have purposefully scheduled reading time. The problem is that I don't want to waste any of that time on anything other than the very best books. It's weird to stand in the SF/Fantasy section of the bookstore where the selection is so far beyond the 60s when the most I could hope for was a new title every week or so at the grocery store's book stand, and realize that none of the books look appealing. I don't know how many times I have found myself holding a copy of Robert Holdstock's MYTHAGO WOOD, because I know it's a great book (which I already own two copies of), or wandered over to the H. P. Lovecraft section, hoping that he's written a new one (come on, you know Lovecraft could write from beyond the grave). The last great, new book I read--I mean really, really take-me-out-of-the-world, make me rethink myself, shake my planet kind of book, was Connie Willis's PASSAGE, and that was 2001. I've enjoyed other books since then (like Bill Bryson's A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING), but it's not the same as it was when I was 15 and would stay up until dawn reading both halves of the latest DAW double.

At any rate, my reading has become incredibly picky, and I often find myself rereading books I know I have liked rather than tackling new ones. I also fail to finish a lot of books because they don't hold me.

That feels weird.

Even being picky, my "to read" pile is huge. Later today I'll add the list of what's in my to read pile to this posting.

What I'm reading now is THE NEIL GAIMAN READER. Many of the stories are ones I've read before, but they're still a treat.

When I thought about retirement ten years ago, I thought I could recapture my lost-in-a-book habit of reading, but I haven't. In some ways that's discouraging. It inspired me to write a story about a retired man searching for a book that enthralled him when he was young (he finds it!). 

I don't have any conclusions from all this. It just interests me.


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James Van Pelt

An interviewer asked the author if he wanted to be the next Stephen King: he said, "No, I want to be the first James Van Pelt."