BEACHES AREN'T MY THING, and reading on beaches even less so. I've never understood how anyone can enjoy a book in the midst of all that sand, glare, and greasy suntan lotion. For reading ambiance, I'll take an easy chair in an air-conditioned room , and leave the damp swimsuits and gritty beach towels to those who appreciate them.
On the other hand, I love the special summer reading lists that newspapers and magazines publish as beach season approaches each year. I love the expanded book sections that appear before the holiday season every winter too. For that matter, I love perusing book reviews and leafing through publishers' catalogs and nosing around in bookstores. And as my wife discovered when she met me, my idea of interior decoration is books on bookshelves, preferably floor-to-ceiling and wall-to-wall. (Her preferences run more to lovingly tended plants, clustered together with rain-forest-caliber density. Negotiations are ongoing.)
I've been a book reader for as long as I can remember, but until I was in college most of the books I read came from -- and went back to -- the library. The books I actually owned as a kid were relatively few. With disposable income, however, the world changed. I realized that the pleasure of reading books was amazingly enhanced by the pleasure of owning books. I liked seeing around me books I had already read; I found it gratifying that my encounter with a book continued even after I'd finished reading it.
But above all there was the delight of anticipation. I snapped up books that intrigued me, that I thought would be good reads, that got great reviews. Alas, I was like a kid whose eyes are too big for his stomach: I kept helping myself to more than I could possibly finish. It didn't help that the older I got, the less time there was for pleasure reading. Or that my ability to acquire books faster than ever -- hello, 1-Click! -- didn't come with the ability to read them any faster.
Ah, if only I could read books as fast as I acquire them! Even half as fast would be a blessing. Even a quarter as fast.