I made an odd sort of promise to myself this year: Read fewer books. The past few years, I been reading at a pace of about 100 books per year – a mix of children’s (but not counting picture books), young adult, and adult – and I felt as if I was reading too quickly and perhaps forgetting what I was reading. (Thank goodness for Goodreads.)
However, I consider it a very important part of my job as a librarian to keep up with what’s published, even if it’s a daunting task. Hundreds of thousands books are published each year in this country, so obviously it’s beyond even a superhero librarian (and I’m not one of those) to keep all those titles straight. But I try to at least know something about some books. We have two public-facing desks in my library – one is called the information desk; the other, reference. If you are working at the information desk, you will be asked for book recommendations. You will be asked, have you read this book? You will be asked to help select a book for a reading group. You will be asked, can help me find something to read in the hospital? Readers' Advisory, as we call it, often is a big part of my day. And I, by my very nature, want to help.
Dr. Amy Spaulding, one of my favorite library school teachers, told us that as librarians we were going to have to learn to read quickly. She taught both a children’s literature class and a teen literature class. And she assigned us many books to read over those two semesters. Luckily, I was a quick reader and kept up. This is not unusual for graduate school, of course, but I think some people took it less seriously because of we were reading “kids’ books.” Yet, reader’s advisory in a youth services department is so very important (within the context of working in a library) and more difficult than you might realize.
Still, for me, this year, I wanted to read less. And yet, I’ve placed so many books on hold that I’ve been reading more than ever. I’m going to try to commit to slowing down. And to that end, I’ve returned a bunch of books in recent weeks. This post is about the books I haven’t read. Some I will go back to; others I’ll keep in mind for other people; and still others I’m absolutely sure to forget about.
Only Time Will Tell by Jeffrey Archer
Every now and then I get a book that I’m absolutely sure I did not request and absolutely sure I don’t want to read. This is one. The only possible reason why I might have wanted to read this book is because it takes place in England and maybe I wanted to be able to recommend it? This is the first book in a generation-spanning septet and I don’t have that much time in my life to read such a thing.
The Fortunes by Peter Ho Davies
The Fortunes is a set of four stories, each taking place in a different time period and each tenuously linked. I had a hard time starting it and felt no compulsion to go on. This has nothing to do with the merits of the book. Just with me.
One Year in Coal Harbor by Polly Horvath
I have a backlist of children’s books I intend to read and this is on it, so grabbed off the shelf one day. I started it and was bored out of my mind. Later I found out that it’s a companion book to Everything on a Waffle. Maybe if I had read that first I would have had a feel for the characters and would have been able to “get into it.” On the one hand, I’m sorry I didn’t. On the other, I’m kind of glad to cross two books off my backlist.
The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel
A big fan of The Life of Pi (book and movie!), I wanted to read Martel’s next book. Like The Fortunes, The High Mountains of Portugal comprises several stories taking place at different times and somehow linked. I didn’t get far into the first story first: A man walking backward through Portugal to find some holy relic. I just wasn’t interested.
Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
I think I’ve taken this book out twice and have returned it twice. Both times unread. It may be a mental block against Ann Patchett. I loved Bel Canto and would easily recommend it, and I’m pretty sure I read The Magician’s Assistant, and liked it too. But I have very mixed feelings about Patchett’s book Truth and Beauty, which she wrote about her friendship with Lucy Grealy. Grealy was a gifted writer. She died at a very young age from an overdose and was beset by her entire life by cancer. Grealy’s family does not like Truth and Beauty and has stated that they are angry at Patchett. (Read this if you’d like to know more.) I think I’m taking the Grealey family’s side and may not be able to read Patchett. Truth and Beauty struck me as very one-sided and left a bad taste in my mouth. I’ve heard good things about Commonwealth and feel this may be one of those books I can recommend to people in just that way: “I’ve heard good things about this, but haven’t read it.”
By Gaslight by Steven Price
731 pages of a detective looking for a man named Shade. I tried. Really I did. I like the Victorian setting. I love detective novels. I’m not daunted by large books (well, at least I tell myself I’m not). But, oy, this one moves slowly. You don’t really care, even at 100 pages in, whom Shade is. Nor do you know. And when I saw that we were going back in time to the Civil War in several chapters, I decided not to give this book any more time. Good luck to those who take this book on. Maybe tell me what happens.
Nobody’s Fool by Richard Russo
Here’s one book on this list that I do intend to read someday. Richard Russo, I’ve heard, is an underappreciated American writer, and the sequel to Nobody’s Fool, Everybody’s Fool, came out recently, so I wanted to read them both. Libraries have listed the books’ genre as “black humor” and they take place in upstate New York. I have to fit them in somehow.
Soon, a look at the 37 books I have read already this year.