My overstuffed shelfies are driving me mad

Trying to find a specific title on my shelfies is like trying to find the Rosetta Stone, without the benefit of Napoleon’s army.

Recently, I was looking for a book I knew, with absolute certainty, lived somewhere on my shelfies. The *real* ones. The ones that hold my paper books.

So many pretty books on my shelfies. Now if only I could find them.
Here is another beauty.

Though I am a devoted e-reader (and devoted to my e-reader), I love paper books, especially hardcover paper books. Hardcovers have weight and heft. They have physical presence. They feel friendly in my hand. They can be art objects in themselves. Here, the first titles that come to mind are The Enchanted Wanderer: And Other Stories by Nikolai Leskov, The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker, and Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami.

This is one reason I have so much trouble getting rid of paper books, even the ones I probably won’t reread, or (ahem) read for the first time. It’s their beauty and sense of possibility. Continue reading “My overstuffed shelfies are driving me mad”

Why I love reading classic literature

Classic literature literature reminds me not to take things too personally. It allows me to reconnect with the idea of literature beyond the context of my time.

One reason (among many) I enjoy reading classic literature: It’s a finite world.

Having gone on to claim their “celestial rewards,” as Charles Dickens put it so elegantly (Pickwick Papers, I think, or maybe Hard Times?), authors are safely out of the picture. Therefore, they can’t get into Twitter wars with critics over how their work has been interpreted. They can’t reveal appalling personal views after I’ve already fallen in love with their work. They can’t continue releasing more and more information about characters or stories that obliges me endlessly to reframe the original. They can’t write sequels, disappointing or otherwise.

Just David Copperfield and me ... and coffee, and s'mores.
Just David Copperfield and me … and coffee, and s’mores.

To be clear, I don’t mean to say there’s anything wrong with the above. In fact, I love attending author talks and hearing what inspired a story I enjoyed. I love being able to say to an author, “Thank you for this experience. Thank you!” I love knowing Nick Hornby and Haruki Murakami and Zadie Smith are still alive and well and hopefully, if I’m lucky, writing more books. Continue reading “Why I love reading classic literature”

Do you remember the book that made you a reader?

I may not remember the name of the book that made me a reader, but I remember the feeling of becoming a reader.

I may not remember the name of the book that made me a reader, but I remember the feeling of becoming a reader.The Center for Fiction has a lovely series called “The Book That Made Me a Reader.” It features acclaimed authors sharing their gateway books—the ones that inspired them to become readers. I love discovering what books moved authors as children and trying to find connections between that work and their work.

As for me, I can rattle off long lists of my childhood favorites, books I read and re-read so many times that their plots are more familiar to me than the events of my own life. But when it comes to the title of the first book that turned me into a reader, I find myself at a loss. I cannot remember the name of the book. What I remember is the moment reading became fluent for me, when the lines and squiggles lined up neatly on the page coalesced and bloomed into meaning, scenes, ideas. Continue reading “Do you remember the book that made you a reader?”

Do some books make better listens than reads?

Audiobooks: Station Eleven

My journey to embrace audiobooks has been a rousing success so far this year. Granted, we’re not quite three months in, but I’m hopeful.

I’ve been thinking about the degree to which this may be a case of necessity being the mother of invention: My committed desire to really, really find an audiobook I could stick with created the favorable conditions for that to happen. Continue reading “Do some books make better listens than reads?”

Why read children’s literature?

C. S. Lewis quote

A Traveller in TimeChildren’s literature holds a prominent place on my reading list. Seven of the 16 books I’ve read this year are classified children’s or young adult novels. That tally will increase when I finish my current read, Alison Uttley’s charming A Traveller in Time.

I’ve been thinking about what draws me to children’s literature because of a Guardian article I read, loved, and shared widely last year that came back into my life recently through Facebook memories. It was written by SF Said and is called “Children’s books are never just for children.” I agree! Obviously. Continue reading “Why read children’s literature?”