Saturday, February 2, 2013

Books about Books

I went to the library today strictly for returning purposes. I coached myself to not get carried away and reminded myself I have a stack of books at home to read, but still left with five new ones. I then went to the thrift store and picked out four more. I don't think I can be helped. Several of the books I got are just books about books, but they are still entertaining in and of themselves. And since this blog is in large devoted to writing about reading, I feel good supporting other writers who write about reading. The question still begs to be asked: If all I do is read books about books, am I really reading? It's a tongue-twister and a mind-twister, folks.

What I'm working through now are Nick Hornby's collections of essays about the books he reads each month. These essays were formerly published columns in The Believer (the column was aptly titled "Stuff I've Been Reading") and are now gathered in four separate books, The Polysyllabic Spree, Housekeeping vs. The Dirt, Shakespeare Wrote for Money, and More Baths Less Talking. I've added several new books to my list, but I'm also intrigued by the idea of someone getting paid to read & then write conversationally about it.

Hornby opens his second collection with a call to read whatever you like--be that literary fiction or dime store novels--instead of what you (or others) think you should be reading. He mentions people with lists (mental and physical) of books to read before a certain age, or before death. I am guilty of list-having, but rest assured, I only put books I want to read on my list. My list isn't task-oriented, I only need it because I can never remember the books I've been meaning to read. (I should also say you make several appearances on my list, Nick Hornby.)

Reading has never been a chore for me as it is for many people, and I think that's because I do read what I want. I'm not ashamed (okay, just a little ashamed) to admit that I'm not a well-read English major. I haven't read a lot of books I "should" have, and because it really doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things, I probably never will. Yes, I have been known to judge others' reading choices, but at the end of the day I would rather someone read a trashy novel than nothing at all. I don't like when people say books aren't for them. I honestly believe there is a book (be it a biography, travel memoir, or graphic novel) for everyone. It only needs to be found.

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