So it’s probably a good thing I’m about to embark on library school, since my need to keep statistics on my reading is a growing obsession. Librarians, in case you didn’t know, are very into stats — we keep numbers on everything, from how many people come through the door to how many people use the public access computers and of course how many books of what type get checked out.
Last year, as I reported in this post, I read 62 books. That was a big jump over the year before and, I’m pleased to report, my reading rate keeps accelerating (although that is unlikely to continue what with that library school thing). There are a couple reasons for this big jump, which I may go into in another post. The short version is that a lot of what I read is what a lot of people would call junk.
In 2009, I read 80 books (or, to be scrupously honest, 79 3/4 — one of them, “Mistress Shakespeare” by Karen Harper, I wound up skimming because it just didn’t grab me but I had spent enough time on it that I felt it was OK to include on my list). The vast majority, 67, were fiction. I started working at the public library in late May; 35 of the books I read came from there. Ten, plus two interlibrary loan books, came from the college library, where I worked until May. Continue reading
I wish my obsessive-compulsive tendencies were in the housecleaning vein, but unfortunately they are limited to useless tasks like carefully keeping track of what I have read. And why? Am I supposed to be earning gold stars from someone? I don’t know why I do this. But I do — and this year, I kept more careful track than ever, with each book noted by fiction vs. nonfiction, if it came from a library, whether I read it for review, etc. etc. I can only blame this on working in a library, where our job is to keep track of things, and classify them. It turns out I like cataloging.
The good news: I read almost twice as much this year as last. That, too, is probably due to my new job. Not that I read on the job — a common but mistaken belief about working in a library — but being surrounded by books all day and learning about lots of newly published books probably inspired me. Not to mention having a job that truly is limited to 40 hours a week most of the time, unlike any job in journalism. Continue reading
I reviewed a couple of diving books — Titanic’s Last Secrets and Diving Into Darkness – for the Miami Herald and the review ran on Sunday. Since one of them was about the two guys from Shadow Divers, I felt compelled to read that first. And watch the two-hour Nova special on their quest to identify the German U-Boat. All of which means — even though these were all pretty good reads, I’m glad to be reading something different.
Lately I’ve been exploiting my position at the library to read some really good new releases as they come in (mostly, these days, through our lease service, called McNaughton — they’re the ones with the green labels). The first was a graphic novel called American Widow by Alissa Torres. Though it’s really not a novel; it’s a graphic memoir, I guess, about a woman whose husband was killed in the World Trade Center on 9/11. It’s heartbreaking but, for me, suffered a little because I had so recently read Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home — hands down, the best graphic novel/memoir/anything I’ve ever read and one of the best memoirs I’ve read, period. Plus Bechdel does her own artwork. Another recent McNaughton I read was The Heretic’s Daughter, an engrossing novel about the Salem witch trials and, just this weekend, When Will There Be Good News by Kate Atkinson, the third in her series sort of centering on soldier-turned-cop-turned-private-eye-turned-rich-guy Jackson Brodie. Like the previous two, it was terrific. And yesterday I zipped through the excellently named Pagan Kennedy’s collection of mostly profiles, The Dangerous Joy of Dr. Sex, which I snagged through Library Thing’s Early Reviewers program. (Having access to review copies when I was a newspaper editor may have ruined me — when the mailman delivered a package on Saturday, my husband just handed it to me, saying “You are such a book whore.” I took it as a compliment. I’m pretty sure he meant it that way.)
September has been a big reading month so far — it’s good to cancel the cable! But I’ve got a couple doorstops on the horizon — the new Dennis Lehane, The Given Day, arrived at the library today and I’ve got Tom Gjelten’s book on the Bacardis at home, waiting for a review read.
By the way, Happy Banned Books Week! In the event that Sarah Palin does not impose her personal view of appropriate reading material on the nation, we should be able to keep celebrating the freedom to read: we at FKCC are celebrating; you can read about it on our blog.
I’m home again — in western Massachusetts, where I grew up — and I recently went home to the Miami Herald, with a book review in Sunday’s paper. The book, called The Lizard King, is a great read — lots of South Florida weirdness, in a telling that’s appreciative without being over the top. It’s the same kind of stuff that Carl Hiaasen and many others write about in fiction; I find it more compelling when you realize these people are real and these crazy capers actually happened. The book got a good review from Janet Maslin in today’s New York Times, too.
BTW, the famous Tom Wolfe phrase from the subject line of this blog post? Turns out he didn’t make it up — he got it from Lincoln Steffens’ widow, to whom he was describing his novel in progress. But he asked her permission to use it, so we’ll keep him off the list of literary no-goods for now. I learned that from an interesting book we recently added to the collection at the FKCC library — called “Nice Guys Finish Seventh,” about quotes and phrases that have been misquoted through history. The title of that is closer to the original of Leo Durocher’s actual phrase, which was apparently “The nice guys are all over there — in seventh place.” Which I think is better than “nice guys finish last” but admittedly not as pithy.
Yes, this blog hit a sophomore slump for awhile there. But I have been reading and even reviewing, if not writing about it in this forum. My latest was a book called “Literary Seductions” by Frances Wilson — I saw it referred to somewhere, looked it up in our catalogue at work and got it through interlibrary loan. Last weekend, I read it. It was OK though not to my standard of high-end literary gossip/lives for regular readers (“Parallel Lives” by Phyllis Rose being my high watermark in the genre). It was kind of a hybrid between academic treatise and layperson read. Maybe that’s how they do it in the UK. Anyway a decent read.
But not as good as the previous one, “Wild Nights!” by Joyce Carol Oates, which I have reviewed for an upcoming edition of Solares Hill. I know, I know, JCO’s prodigious output can be intimidating. And I even made sure to write this review without using the word “prolific.” But this is a good one, maybe because it’s also on the literary lives vein — but with the Oatesean twists of eerieness and weirdness pushed a few shoves beyond comfort level.