Books, People, and Book People

I often have a hard time finishing books. It's not that I don't read; as the son of a sports-writer and an editor, I was raised on reading. I love a good book. But oftentimes I'll start a book and get about halfway through, then my interest levels will taper off. This usually doesn't happen with fiction books, because I'm invested in the story and want to see how it ends. But with nonfiction? It's an all-too-often occurrence. For example, I've got a small bookshelf in my dining room filled with what I'm sure are great books that I've left only half completed. Dr. Richard Beck's "Unclean" has a bookmark about three-quarters in that reminds me that I haven't finished his book about how our perceptions of someone's dirtiness affect how we view/treat them. (Which is a shame, because it's a phenomenal read so far. I'd like to be able to tell him I've finished it Wednesday night at Freedom Fellowship.) I'm certain that I'd be deeply interested in Michelle Alexander's arguments in "The New Jim Crow," which is a book concerning mass incarceration, particularly with regard to communities of color, but I'm only a few pages in. Even "A Year of Biblical Womanhood," has been sitting untouched on my shelf for a while, even though Rachel Held Evans' book is much more a narrative than a strictly academic work. Each one has been started with great anticipation, only to be relegated to the shelf to be finished later.

While this phenomenon is a bit frustrating with books, I wonder if the problem lies deeper than paperbacks. In my experience, the way I've treated books is how I think some people treat each other, myself included. I feel like I'm quite adept at beginning a relationship, making introductions, and getting a friendship off the ground. But, like my books, I sometimes do a poor job of following up the initial push with the time and energy to continue the relationship. I've also experienced the feeling of another person enthusiastically trying to get to know me, then fading away as time goes by.

I don't bring this up to suggest that each of us should read through every book we start; there are some look interesting but end up not being engaging or relevant. Nor is this to say that every person we meet should become a close friend. I simply believe that it is easy to fall into the patterns and habits we accidentally set. As someone who commits to reading through a book, I need to do a better job following up on my commitment. And as a person who meets a lot of people, I need to work past the easy beginnings of knowing others on a surface level toward understanding who people really are. With some work and time, who knows when a person will become a part of you, like that book you read over and over again.