To Bryson

Just started reading Bill Bryson’s “In a Sunburned Country“. Returning to an old favorite like Bryson feels like putting on the t-shirt you bought 15 years ago – it’s faded, and the fabric’s [allegedly] completely worn off in a spot [whose existence you refuse to acknowledge, when your mom points this out to you] at just the place you can’t reach on your back, but feels comfortable in a way your 1500 rupee Arrow shirt never will.

The problem with taking your hobbies seriously is that somewhere along the line, well, you take things a bit too seriously. You start reading books you’re “supposed” to read, books that anyone who considers themselves a reader “ought” to read, books that other equally bookish-friends have “told” you to read, books you read as preparation for other books you intend to read, books you read as you lookout for another author who makes it worthwhile to stay up till 3AM …

In “If on a winter’s night a traveler”, Alberto Calvino gives an absolutely beautiful list of categories that books fall into into. His list goes for for almost 2 pages, but here are some of my personal favorites:

– Books You Haven’t Read
– Books You Needn’t Read
– Books Made For Purposes Other Than Reading
– Books That If You Had More Than One Life You Would Certainly Also Read But Unfortunately Your Days Are Numbered
– Books You Mean To Read But There Are Others You Must Read First
– Books Too Expensive Now And You’ll Wait Till They’re Remaindered
– Books ditto When They Come Out In Paperback
– Books You Can Borrow From Somebody
– Books You’ve Been Planning To Read For Ages,
– Books You Want To Own So They’ll Be Handy Just In Case,
– Books You Could Put Aside Maybe To Read This Summer,
– Books You Need To Go With Other Books On Your Shelves,
– Books That Fill You With Sudden, Inexplicable Curiosity, Not Easily Justified
– Books Read Long Ago Which It’s Now Time To Reread
– Books You’ve Always Pretended To Have Read And Now It’s Time To Sit Down And Really Read Them

Anyways, I digress – my point – in the midst of all this reading, sometimes, without even noticing it, you can stop having fun. Until you pick up a trusted old fav like Bill Bryson. Or until you do discover another author who can make you turn up for work bleary-eyed, yawning, and grinning from ear to ear, purring at the mere thought of getting back home to the rest of the book. But the latter is pretty rare, so am grateful to Bryson.

Late last night, when I’d allowed myself 10 minutes to read, before my eyes closed by themselves, I found myself chuckling to Bryson. Here’s a sample:

The people are immensely likable — cheerful, extrovert, quick-witted, and unfailingly obliging. Their cities are safe and clean and nearly always built on water. They have a society that is prosperous, well ordered, and instinctively egalitarian. The food is excellent. The beer is cold. The sun nearly always shines. There is coffee on every corner. Rupert Murdoch no longer lives there. Life doesn’t get much better than this.

How can you NOT love this man?


1 comment so far

  1. 1phyl2phil3fil on

    Looked at it. Will do it a try.
    Tx for.

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