Different books require different amounts of momentum. A collection of short stories can be leisurely read, one a night or simply as the whim comes to read them. A short novel is delicious when devoured in a sitting, open to close without putting the story up for the night. But as the book gets longer, different strategies come into play. Is it pulp, such as a Ludlum novel? Or comparatively easily to read like a YA? Those make a good weekend read, maybe a week at the most.
When the tome gets weightier, both in subject matter and density of prose, a new strategy is needed. Foucault’s Pendulum. War and Peace. Of Human Bondage. All good solid reads, engrossing in subject, certainly no lightweight reading experience. But not something to read unless one has a good span of time ahead of oneself. At this point pacing is what is required. Maybe a schedule to get through the work. Don’t laugh, one does this as one gets older and feels many demands on their life. This also works well for a series of books, such as The Wheel of Time, or In Search of Lost Time.
But then there are the true tomes. They often get called door stops, but that does them a grave disservice. These are the books one can spend a lifetime in, weaving in and out as the focus of much thought and energy gets poured into them. The Qur’an, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Bible all certainly qualify here. But they aren’t really what I am talking about. Now, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is certainly in our ball park, as is the book I picked up the other day.
Black Lamb, Grey Falcon. 1100 pages on travel though Yugoslavia during the run-up to WWII. Published during the war by Viking in the US and MacMillan in the UK, it became the benchmark of all 20th century travel, referred back to by others such as Robert Kaplan whenever the region erupts, as it did in the nineties. The edition I picked up is from ’43, the first single volume edition. This one is sans DJ, but I will keep my eyes open for a good jacket, as they do come up on ebay from time to time. And really, dust jackets are a huge part of it for me.
So, I am settling in on this, which should (fingers crossed) work with my reading habits. See, during my tenure as a bookstore manager, I developed a bad habit of not reading a book to the finish, as I always had new arrivals that needed attention. If the book was good, I would circle back to it. If it wasn’t, well, there is always another book to take a look at. When I got back to the books I started, I was always good picking it up just where I left it. In fact, I could never stand to restart a book I hadn’t finished.
So, what are you working your way through?