As crazy as this might sound: The president of the largest, 2nd oldest, and most frequently visited website dedicated to books written by or for African American readers has not read a complete book in the better part of three months.
It is not that I don’t read. I read every single day. I spend more time reading and writing than I do watching TV or even talking to other people.
Of course part of the reason I have not read a book from cover to cover is that I’m busy. Virtually all of my time is spent doing something related to AALBC.com. If I’m not engaged in AALBC.com related work, I’m hanging our with family and friends or doing something to stay in shape.
I’m never idle, you’ll never be able to call me up, ask what I’m doing, and get the response “nothing”. If I’m watching TV is is usually because I’m too tried to do anything else — least of all read.
Lately I’ve been on a, largely ignored, rant about the state of the Black book business. Some of my attention has been focused on the rapid closing of bookstores across the country, how important they are to communities and related issues. Part of my motivation is the knowledge that websites will follow the course of the physical stores and we’ll, effectively, be back in the “pre-Terry McMillian” days when there were less than a handful of popular Black novelists telling a narrow range of stories. Sure there will be an increasing number of books published each year, but it will be impossible to sort the good from the bad, and there will be virtually no platforms to spread the word — despite all the social media… but I digress.
The last time I walked into a book store, purchased a book (Toni Morrison’s Home), and read it from cover to cover, was this past summer. Now I’ve purchased books, in stores since, but I have not finished reading any of them.
I’ve been “working” on Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns for 3 months — that is if you count “working” on it as it sitting on my nightstand for 3 months with the hope of being read someday. Wilkerson’s tome isn’t lonely, there are at least 10 other books I’m “working” on to keep it company.
The books laying in wait include Robins Walker’s When we Ruled The Ancient and Medieval Civilizations (published in the US by Black Classic Press and Every Generation Media in the UK), Lorna Goodison’s critically acclaimed novel By Love Possessed, Allison Hobbs’ Put a Ring On It, who Zane described “The only woman on the planet freakier than me”, Kim Al-Khalili’s Black Holes Wormholes & Time Machines, one of many books pilfered from my kids’ room and De Cómo Tia Lola Vino
de Visita a Quedarse by Julia Alvarez, a Spanish language children’s novel I want to read to improve my Spanish. I picked up Alvarez’s book in a local independently owned bookstore, La Casa Azul Bookstore.
This not is my 1st period of protracted non-reading and I’m certain it will not be my last. It is dry spells like these that I realize what a wonderful luxury it is to be able to sit down and enjoy a good book that you’ve selected for no other reason than pleasure, to escape, or to learn something new; a book that you can read without dozing because you’re drained from a working all day.
There have been times when I’ve been able to really immerse myself in the joys of reading. A few years ago I went to the Dominican Republic for vacation; between the beach and the flight I was able to read 5 books in two weeks. Unfortunately circumstances where I have extended periods of time, disconnected from technology and responsibility are increasing rare.
Yes, reading for pleasure is increasingly becoming a luxury activity, even for a guy with a really big website devoted to the activity.