Last night I finished reading a novel right before I fell asleep. It is always good to have resolution before slumbering unless it’s one of those disturbing psychological dramas. But I resist those for nighttime reading and stick with those that bring only untroubled dreams.
Doubly nice, this morning I knew that I have my pick of new books to start on tonight. In fact, in the back of my mind while I’ve been sending emails, attending meetings, and helping students, I’ve had a mental picture of all my to-be-read books sitting at attention on their special book shelf, just hoping that it’s their turn to make it to my bedside table.
Working in a library, I have access to books, of course. We are adding new ones daily to the shelves, and I try not to check out new ones until students have had an opportunity. But I usually have three or four checked out from here. Right now, I also have four checked out from the public library with two more wait-listed. There are three more a friend has loaned me. And then there are the books I buy. I know. You would think librarians would not need to buy books. But I can’t resist. I buy them even when I know that there’s no way I’ll have a chance to read them in the next two-three months. Right now there are at least fifteen books that I’ve bought so far this year but have yet to read. There is something quite unsettling about the thought of finishing a book and not having a choice of what to pick up next. After all, my mood might not be for mysteries after finishing one. I might want history. (The Woman Who Shot Mussolini is waiting.) I might desire poetry. (A collection by Marge Piercy is at hand.) I may even desire a little science. (Cats Are Not Peas is also here.)
The only time I am really sad is when I finish an author: Elizabeth Gaskell or George Eliot come to mind. Like Desmond in Lost, I’ve kept back a few Dickens so that there are still some Victorian tomes to anticipate reading. But in general, the end of a book means the beginning of a new one.
Of course, it’s easy to know when a book has ended. It’s not always as easy to know when a relationship is on its last pages or a job is coming to a conclusion. And sometimes endings can seem so overwhelming that it’s hard to imagine doing anything but mourning the loss. But until the final ending, death, there is always a beginning at each ending. And it is always up to us to make the most of each one.