Surely we all occasionally buy books because of a daydream we’re having—a little fantasy about the people we might turn into one day, when our lives are different, quieter, more introspective, and when all the urgent reading, whatever that might be, has been done. We never arrive at that point, needless to say.
Other books, is what happened. Other books, other moods, other obligations, other appetites, other reading journeys.
There are books you read once and then put away on your shelf. You know that you will never have to read them again, although you may return to them to check certain points or to refresh your memory of certain ideas or episodes. (It is in the case of such books that the notes you make in the margin or elsewhere in the volume are particularly valuable.)
How do you know that you do not ever have to read such books again? You know it by your own mental reaction to the experience of reading them. Such a book stretches your mind and increases your understanding. But as your mind stretches and your understanding increases, you realize, by a process that is more or less mysterious, that you are not going to be changed any more in the future by this book. You realize you have grasped the book in its entirety. You have milked it dry. You are grateful for what it has given you, but you know it has no more to give.
I like it when books are self-referential, whether they mean to be or not. It does make a good chuckle. Above passage pretty much seems up my relationship to, my experience of, and my future with this book—quite helpfully titled How to Read a Book [deemed “the classic guide to intelligent reading], written/assembled by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren.
The rest of my evening with this lovely dinosaur over at the book blog.