There’s something pleasurable about adding a book to your to-read pile. When you put it there, it’s possible to imagine reading it and to imagine being the kind of person who has read it. It’s a good feeling. It feels like being educated. Accomplished.
But until you actually read the book, you’re fundamentally just engaging in lifestyle consumerism that is, at its core, no different from all the people who buy fancy kitchen appliances (espresso machines or vitamix blenders) that they’re never going to use.
Books aren’t just vessels for information. They’re also props in a story that we tell about ourselves. And that’s true even when the books are just files in our kindles. Because the story isn’t primarily for other people: mostly, it’s for ourselves. We want to be the kind of person who’d read this book or that book. So we buy it, and for a few moments the illusion feels real.
(Of course, even reading the book is part of the same act. Everything we do is party of a story that we tell ourselves. There’s no escaping from it. But at least when you read a book, you’re doing something in addition to building up your story.)
Anyway, lately I’ve been making a conscious effort to wait until one book is almost finished before I go looking for new books to read. This is primarily for reasons of economy and practicality. It’s silly to spend money on books that I might not want to or be able to read when the time comes. And it’s also silly to spend hours browsing for new books when I already have a book, one that I’m interested in and invested in, that I haven’t yet finished reading.