Friday, February 08, 2008

How to Read a Book

Last weekend I had a nice opportunity to run a few household errands and end my time with about an hour at Borders. I had a partially used gift certificate burning a hole in my pocket and needed to get...something. It's not that I don't enjoy being at home. I'm rather a bit of a homebody. It's just that sometime we introverts need to get recharged by getting away from the din of the home team. Even if it means going to a place where there is a crowd of people. At least they're strangers.

The decision to buy a book was a difficult one. I already have several books sitting on my shelf, waiting to be scanned by my eyeballs. Do I really need to get another one? If I do, will it just go to the end of the long line and finally get read some time next year?

As I approached the store, there were several boxes outside. There was the $6.99 set of books in boxes on tables on the left hand side of the door, and there was the $3.99 set of books in boxes on tables on the right hand side of the door. I started browsing the $6.99 books. I probably spent a whole half hour outside browsing through the selection.

The first book that grabbed my attention was Opening Day: The Story of Jackie Robinson's First Season. I flipped through this book and thought it looked very interesting. A lot of two things I like in there: baseball, and history. I flipped through, looked at old photos of ball players in their baggy uniforms, with cigarettes hanging out of their months, either smirking at the camera, or looking oblivious to it all together. I held on to that book for a while. It was a hard back and $6.99 seemed pretty good, even though it would leave about $10 on my card. I kept looking.

Next I saw a very intriguing book. Capone: The Man and the Era. It too looked interesting. Also some history. Also old black and white photos of guys with hats on, cigarettes hanging from their mouths, and sometimes even smiling. I put down the Robinson book. I flipped through Capone and saw names I recognized: O'Hare, Ness, and the notorious Capone brothers. As I looked through the book I realized that all that I really knew about Capone I know from the 1987 movie (and one of my favorites), "The Untouchables." What a cast that movie had! Robert Di Nero as Capone, Kevin Costner as Ness, Andy Garcia and Sean Connery as part of the "Untouchable" gang. What a great movie! I put the book down. I was never going to really read it. I had already seen the movie.

I remembered the book I had come for--or at least to look for and hold in my hand and flip through and see if I really wanted it, see if I could really stomach it. It was Sam Harris's Letter to a Christian Nation. The atheist manifesto of "how dumb can you Christians really be to believe there is a god" rhetoric. I found it, flipped through it, and then decided not to buy it. Not here. It's not that I didn't want to be seen carrying it, it was that I didn't want to pay full price for it thereby endorsing his creed. Much better to buy it used on or something like that later.

I was running out of time. What am I going to get? Then--I remembered. The book I had heard of for some time and never purchased. The book that will undoubtedly become the subject of future blog posts. The book with the ironic title: How to Read a Book.