"Call me Ishmael."

Posted in: Books

I've said before that books, reading, and the local city library are a few of the things that rate very highly in my list of hobbies. Upon returning from my New Year's holiday, I went to the library and saw that 3 books I wanted to read were available, so I got them all, thinking that I could manage to read all 3 books within the 1 month borrowing period. It'd be like a reading challenge I told myself.

I wouldn't say I'm a slow reader, but the amount of time available to me for reading is the biggest hurdle to completing such a challenge: spare weekend afternoons being the largest chunk of available time, followed by before I go to bed at night, during my lunch break at work, and maybe even a few pages when I turn-on my work computer in the morning. (When I lived in the suburbs, I could add 'the train ride to/from work' to that list, which added about 40 minutes every weekday.)

1 month on, I did manage to read those 3 books, but for as long as I've been having this love-affair with the library, I've had this nasty little habit of borrowing another book whenever I return the one I've just read. It was never a problem before as it kept me with something to read, but now it's keeping me perpetually in 'reading challenge' mode which is starting to weigh on me. So I've still got 3 books to go, none of them the ones I originally borrowed after New Year's, and on top of those I also have the 2 books I was given as Christmas presents from my family (Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan and Michael Flynn's Eifelheim).

I'm trying to break the cycle - I don't want to feel eternally obligated to use my spare time reading books when I should redirect that spare time into other things like planning for Pizza 1.1, or practicing guitar now that I have someone to practice songs with - and with the last book I returned I did manage to leave the library without a replacement. However, something else has taken the place of my library habits, which is doing just as good a job of putting a new book in my hands: curiosity.

Schrodinger's lolcat
Cats aren't the only thing curiosity can kill...(and 10 points if you saw this image and thought 'Schrodinger's lolcat!')

Ever started at a topic in Wikipedia, and then followed the 'see also' and other links, only to find yourself hours later at a totally unrelated topic? (What, no? Well, XKCD has it documented, so I know it's not just me that does it) Well, that happened to me last week, and while I can't remember what it is I started with, I do remember ending-up on the Wikipedia entry for Moby-Dick.

I've never read Moby-Dick before. With all the cultural references to Captain Ahab and his hunt for the elusive white whale, I thought I knew enough of the essential plot points that I didn't need to read Moby-Dick. As I was reading through the article and the parts about the background, themes, and the effects the book has had on us to this very day, the curiosity in me took hold and I started wanting to read the book to get an understanding on all of this stuff and to join the bandwagon that has been rolling since it was first published over 150 years ago.

With the prospect of a slow weekend ahead, and against my better judgement (knowing that I had 2 more library books on my plate), I went to the library's online catalogue to see if a copy of Moby-Dick was available.

They had 1 left.

Moby-Dick, the book

The opening line of the book reads:

Call me Ishmael.