It’s getting worse. Piles everywhere. I may gaze with lust at pictures of gorgeous and clever bookshelves but in my house, books live in chaos. Paperbacks, hardcovers are not organized by subject, nor author, nor color (egads) or most recently acquired. Advanced Readers Copies are piled in with purchased titles. Anywhere I sit in the house there is a book within grabbing distance. Teetering on the table beside my corner of the couch (next to the reading light, of course) is a stack of mostly memoirs. Sometimes I’ll pull a title off a shelf because I forgot I owned it and have yet to read it. For that same reason, I also have multiples of the same title like Truth and Beauty that I own both in paperback and hardcover. (how have I not read this yet?) Thus grows another pile – as if by cluttering up a table with them increases the odds I’ll read them sooner.
And when I’ve finished a book I’ve loved I still need to keep it around me at least a little longer, my new friend. I can’t simply shelve it – how inhospitable that would feel! Coincidentally, one recent ‘friend’ hanging around is by a friend: Nina Sankovitch‘s new memoir Signed, Sealed, Delivered was inspired by letters she found years ago in a rotting trunk in her backyard in NYC. Nina’s engaging voice and smart storytelling is a delight even if she’s not your buddy and of course after you’ve read it she will be your bud because – that’s what happens. And like her last book Tolstoy and the Purple Chair, you’ll finish with an appetite to read the same books and letters she writes of so compellingly. Another recent favorite is The Steady Running, Justin Go‘s beautifully wrought novel of love, adventure, obsession, told through time and across the globe. (I do want to discuss the ending with someone else who read it – let me know when you have.)
Bed-side, of course I have more books. These are what I am reading now and what I intend to read next before sleeping. My stack includes collected essays providing me with inspiration as I find my own writerly way. Currently in that camp are Ann Patchett‘s This is the Story of a Happy Marriage and Dani Shapiro‘s Still Writing - both warm and encouraging writers who reach out across the pages to say it is possible, be brave.
Not even my kitchen is a book-free zone. Of course, I love cookbooks. While the lesser-used ones have been relegated to a cupboard with some pots and pans, the shelf holding the tomes with my go-to recipes threatens to collapse. My favorite continues to be Super Natural Everyday by Heidi Swanson whose food blog, 101 Cookbooks I suggest you subscribe to.
Even at work, where reading consists of stolen minutes while eating lunch, I keep a pile of appealing ARCs I’ve snagged under my desk. Peter Heller‘s The Painter is what’s on the menu these days, pages getting dappled with salad dressing daily.
Last week’s great treat was attending a presentation of new books by Independent Publishers organized by B&N and the Association of American Publishers. It was intoxicating to listen to these publishers and bask in their obvious passion and love for the new titles they described so eloquently. How can I not love my job, this crazy business of books? As I harbor publishing hopes of my own, what an inspiring peek into the kitchen where the cooking gets done. These professionals with their smarts, passion are one of the major of a myriad of reasons I will not self-publish. I want some of that love! So yes, there were freebies. Yet, when it was time for a break and 100 plus of my fellow booksellers lined up to grab them, I went for a cup of tea. I hate lines and didn’t fancy shlepping books through the streets of Manhattan back to Connecticut. And as you can see from these photos, I have enough to read. I was very proud of my self-control.
But then the last publisher took the mic.
Publisher Judith Gurewich, introduced 2 new titles her press, Other Press will be releasing: I’ll Be Right There by Kyung Sook Shin who also wrote Please Look after Mom and The Goddess of Small Victories by Yannick Grannec. Her description of both of these books was so enthralling and passionate, I beat 100 booksellers out of the room and cornered Judith to tell her so. She insisted on giving me her last ARCs. I’ll be reading them.
My book lust feels almost greedy, my cravings never sated. Am I being a hoarder, nervously anticipating that day when I can no longer main-line books before they’ve even hit the shelves? My question to myself and anyone else who’d care to answer, am I becoming a bit of a crazy person? Do I have a problem?
The book I’m reading before I fall asleep each night is An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine. Even more book-mad than me, Nina Sankovitch knew I’d love this book and of course, she is right. A brilliant, aging woman in Beirut lives contentedly, alone with her books. Her apartment is crammed with them. Reading this beautiful portrait of this literature lover makes me feel a little less wacko. Or at least that I’m in good company.
P.S. I also own a NOOK. It’s somewhere… probably under a pile of books.