July 29, 2004

So many books, so little time: A year of passionate reading/ Sara Nelson

An interesting account of the author's reading interests. She shares her thoughts about the books she'd read, her motivation to read, her personal history, about her family and friends, her relationships with them (read about her fight with her husband in the "June 22" Chapter), her associated memories and feelings that each book elicits, why she reads what she reads.

Tone is conversational; as if you and the author are having a cuppa while she's regaling you with her account of a year's worth of readings (she didn't read them all though, which gives hopes to those of you who think reading is about completing all the books you want to read). Certain chapters are witty, while some simple rambles.

There are snippets of book reviews interspersed through various chapters. From another angle, it's less of a book review but a travelogue of her literary journey.
I liked the July 20: Reading Confidential chapter (p.134). She comments on Anthony Bourdain, and I could relate to the chapter bec. I've watched Bourdain's "A Cook's Tour" on cable.

The September 11: Oh, God chapter(p.153): She shares her thoughts about the anniversary of the attack by relating it with books. Chapter kind of rambles, really, but it kind of works in the end.

Chapter on p. 159, September 18: Kid Stuff: Liked this one bec. she talks about one of my favourite children's book - Charlotte's Web. *sniff*. This chapter is typical of Nelson's book - it's not about the book "Charlotte's Web" per se, but the linkages and associations with the book, e.g. memory of reading with her parents, her relationship with her child explained by relating her account of how she was trying to get her child to read Charlotte's Web, her son's transformation from a reluctant reader to an interested reader. Ending brought me a smile. Kids always say the darndest thing.

Overall impression:

  • This book reads like a blog!
  • Something like "Bridget Jone's Diary" meets the "Library Journal" book reviews.
  • Good for a quick read and scan. chapters are short enough. No compunction to read the book in its entirety.
  • It's personal, direct, gossipy, philosophical, intimate, rambling, conversational, self-depreciating, contemplative.

Prudes, don't read chapters Sept 25: Sex and the City (p.167) and Oct 2: Sex and the City - across the pond (p. 174). (Aha! I bet now you're interested). As an experiment, I tried to search the NLB catalogue for the books mentioned in the chapters. Guess how many I found :)

Favourite lines from the book:
"... not only were books cheaper than movies and easier to find than suitable human dates, they could take me with them to fabulous places." (p.5)

"Part of the appeal o books, of course, is that they're the cheapest and easiest way to transport you from the world you know into one you don't... Reading's ability to beam you up to a different world is a good part of the reason people like me do it in the first place - because dollar for dollar, hour per hour, it's the most expedient way to get from our proscribed little "here" to an imagined, intriguing "there". Part time machine, part Concord, part ejector seat, books are our salvation." (p.12)

"Allowing yourself to stop reading a book--at page 15, 50, or even, less frequently, a few chapters from the end--is a rite of passage in a reader's life... the moment at which you can look at yourself and announce: Today I am an adult. I can make my own decisions." (p.55)

The copy I'm holding is the 2003 edition by G.P. Putnam's Sons (New York).
Subject headings:
(1) Books and reading--United States.
(2) Nelson, Sara--Books and reading
NLB call No. 028.90973 NEL

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