The Size of the Effort

IMG_6807Last month I opened a box that had just been delivered expecting a gift for my youngest who turned four. Instead, I was quite surprised to see it was a box of books. MY books, or more specifically, my Advanced Reading Copies (ARCs) which I, or a publicist, send out to reviewers.

I wish I could say I became teary-eyed at the sight of them. Or that I jumped up and down and screamed. But I didn’t.

It wasn’t that I wasn’t excited or happy because I was. This should have happened years ago and I’m disappointed in myself that I took this long to make it happen.

But when I held it in my hand, I was surprised to see it wasn’t very big. It is a normal size book, of course, but it is so much slimmer than I’d anticipated. Two hundred and fifty-two pages don’t exactly make a phone book, but still I thought it’d be heftier.

Turns out the size of the effort is not always represented by the width of the spine.

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Down With E-Readers…?

Have you read Gary Shteyngart’s novel Super Sad True Love Story? It is a good book, certainly very smart, but I was mad reading it. Really. So mad, in fact, I contemplated not finishing it. But because I have a thing where I like to finish a book no matter what and yes, I know life’s too short and I’m too busy to spend time reading a book I dislike, but the writer did put their heart into it so I like to support them albeit anonymously in reading it cover to cover…There should be a support group for people like me, but I am getting better at putting a book aside if I hate it.

Anyway, I was mad while reading Shteyngart’s novel. And all because in the book people don’t read actual books anymore. They think books smell and only use technology to skim or speed-read through summaries of books. The main character has books, but he’s a bit embarrassed by them because it marks him as being weird, old, uncool.

But as I’ve thought about writing this post, and about how I would raise my fist and declare, “An E-Reader is Not for Me!” I’ve felt hesitation enter my heart. Are e-readers really so bad? Could I be wrong in my loyalty to the printed and bound books?

I love books, which I discuss in great detail here. So I’m just speechless that I’m not as anti-e-reader as I thought. I suppose it could be great carrying several books with you via an e-reader instead of the actual books. My bag is already pretty heavy as it is with diapers and wipes, sippy cups and snacks, Hot Wheels and crayons… and then there’s my stuff! And it would be nice to highlight favorite passages without marking the physical books up, since I’m such a nut about keeping my books in pristine shape. (I’m just assuming you can highlight with e-readers; I’ve never looked closely at one to see what it actually offers.)

I’m not prepared to make the switch right now, but I can no longer say I’ll never have an e-reader. Instead, maybe one day I’ll succumb to technology. Maybe.

What about you? Anyone else taking a stand against e-readers? Anyone recently succumb to the temptation and find themselves the proud owner of an e-reader? Leave me a comment and let me know your thoughts!

My Love of Books or Sure Signs of My Insanity

Everyone who knows anything about me is aware of my love of books. In fact, I’m a little fanatical about it. I’ve mentioned how going to the library as a kid brought me such joy, the slickness of the plastic covering as I ran my hands over the title of the books I’d chosen, the sound of the plastic crinkling as I opened the book to the first page. Okay, perhaps, I didn’t go into those details; I didn’t want you to think I’m crazy…

Dear Readers, I was a book hoarder even as a child.

When I was six, we went to California to visit my great-great-grandmother (maybe she was just one great) and other relatives and in the airport there was a man selling books. He had a shaved head, was barefoot and wore an orange toga-like garment. And I begged my father to buy me one of the man’s books. My father couldn’t believe that I wanted one, but I was so adamant that I convinced him. It was a small paperback book with a silver cover. And on the cover there was a child dressed in white with a yellow halo or sun behind the child’s head. I don’t remember the title, but the topic was reincarnation, which at age six I certainly knew nothing about. It ended up being over my head (even years later), but I tried my hardest to read that book cover to cover.

When I was maybe ten or so, my mother had a yard sale. We were living in the green house behind the shop and so she had to schlep all of the items from our house closer to Rt. 113 to generate activity from shoppers. There were two things that still stand out to me after all these years about that yard sale:

  1. This is totally off-topic, but my mother sold a purse of hers that I loved, although I have no recollection now of even what color it was, but which my younger brother had thrown up in — oh, I can still see him leaning forward from the back seat to vomit into her purse which happened to be open and sitting in between the two front seats.  (Now I’m making a mental note to always zip my bags closed, aren’t you?) And just so you know, the purse cleaned up to be as good as new, but she just couldn’t shake the memory of it and that’s why she ultimately sold it.
  2. And she sold my books to a non-English speaking woman for her young child for like a $1 or something. Obviously she was desperate for the woman to take all my books.

I remember being upset about the loss of those books. Perhaps they were below my reading level, but that didn’t mean I loved them any less! Which is why my mother explained who she sold them to and for how little. She thought it would help another child develop a love of reading. She hoped it would help a mother learn English as she read to her child. She believed that selling my old books would create room for new books. So how could I complain after hearing such kind and generous reasons? Although it has occurred to me that she might have made up this Spanish-speaking mother, wanting to keep as little as possible from the yard sale.

And since I’m being honest, I might as well confess that my fanaticism even causes me to hesitate when a friend asks to borrow a book. I want to loan them my book, but what if they bend the pages or mark it up or get it wet or…A friend of mine accidentally dropped a book of mine in the swimming pool once and I will admit that I may have overreacted. I still have that waterlogged book, the pages no longer lying perfectly flat, the cover slightly marred and I can’t shake that memory whenever I glance upon the title on my shelves.

So I have trouble loaning out books, but I also have trouble borrowing books. Once I’ve read it, I like to  write my name in it and put it on the shelf.  And in case you are wondering, yes, my books are in alphabetical order by author.

Some of you are rushing to print this post out right now so you can provide proof when having me committed. And that’s okay, but I’d have to bring my books.

My husband is on me every time we move to give up my books. (He is the reason I no longer have that slim paperback about reincarnation I mentioned earlier and I just want to point out that if I still had that book, I could’ve inserted a photo of the cover into this post, which really would’ve added, don’t you think? But alas, it is gone and I must move on…) In fact, I’ve often wondered if he hasn’t secretly “lost” a box of my books between here and there. There are moments when I think, Don’t I have more books than this? There seem to be fewer…or it seems I should have more…

And whenever there is a potential gift-receiving occasion (my birthday, Christmas, etc.) I always have books on my wish list. Always. But this year I have decided to not ask for books – although let me assure you I will not refuse any books should anyone be so inclined to give me books! Instead, of expanding my library with new books, I’m going to reread the books in my library.

Of course I’ve reread some of my favorites from time to time, but I’m going to start at the beginning with Dorothy Allison and work my way spine by spine, finishing with Xiaoa Xiao.

I’m excited! (And fairly certain most of you are admiring my husband for having remained married to me this long despite my…peccadilloes.) Now, if only I could find more hours in the day to allow for such leisurely, yet purposeful reading.

P.S. After having written this post, I have probably added twenty books to my wish list. What was I thinking, saying I wouldn’t buy any books until I’ve reread the ones I own? Will I be able to keep to my goal? Or will I succumb to temptation and buy more books? And what about e-readers? Subscribe to my blog so you don’t miss a detail!

A Bounty of Books from the Library

One of my favorite places to go when I was a kid was to the library. I loved browsing the library shelves, selecting old favorites and new titles. I remember watching the librarian stamping the books, a staccato rhythm as she stamped the inkpad and then the card in the back of the book, back and forth, until all of my chosen books were marked with the return date. I even liked seeing the dates that had been marked from previous stamps, imagining who had checked them out before me, wondering how they felt about the book I was about to read. And then our library trip was over and as we headed home, I would hold them in my lap, oblivious to the world around me as I marveled at their covers, debating which book I would read first.

I can’t remember if the library imposed a number of books you were allowed to check out, or if my mother did…or maybe there was no limit, but I know that I never got to bring home as many books as we brought home a few weeks ago…

Our take-home number of books: 54!

We had three bags full, and all for the kids, none for me. (I prefer to purchase, not borrow, books for myself.) But the kids were excited about their bounty and as soon as we got home, we laid out a blanket on our front lawn and set to reading a few of them.

Just like I used to do when I was their age.