Library Books: A Small Antidote to a Life of Perpetual Dissatisfaction

By Ben Dolnick for The New York Times

A few weeks ago, I learned of the existence of a book — a novel published nearly 25 years ago called “The Debt to Pleasure” — and decided, immediately, that I needed to own it. Various reviews and blurbs promised that it was brilliant. Its structure (a novel that was somehow also an essay and a cookbook?) sounded ingenious. I had recently read a hilarious little essay by the book’s author, John Lanchester. All the reasons I ought to buy it — why in fact I had no choice — gathered in my mind like the little metal shavings around the magnetic pencil-tip of that strange and soothing toy where you can drag clumps of hair around the head of an inexplicably red-nosed bald man.

But before I could hit the Buy Now button (which always causes, with its frictionlessness, a fillip of panic when I realize that I forgot to verify that the book is being sent to me and not, say, my wife’s grandmother in Florida), a familiar, dreary obstacle arose in my mind: the library. Specifically, the grand and Supreme Court-ish library that is all of three blocks from my apartment. Almost ruefully I loaded the library’s website onto my laptop and searched the catalog and sure enough, there it was: “The Debt to Pleasure,” available now. Would I like to place it on hold? Sigh, yes.

And thus did the bright balloon of my desire sink and sag until, by the time the book was ready to be picked up, it was like one of the balloons that my daughter insists on keeping around after birthday parties, bumping misshapenly among the chair legs. I still wanted to read “The Debt to Pleasure,” of course, but I no longer felt aglow with the heart-pumping certainty that I would love it. This shabby, yellow-papered object was so ordinary, so utterly unlike the crisp-edged, untouched brick of promise that is a new book.

Read more here.

Help your child learn to read with Reading Kingdom. Sign up today for a free 30 day trial.