02 June 2010

What Would Nick Do?

A friend of mine who calls herself “Barb” on her very funny blog justly chides me for not being clear about my intentions for this page. Actually, what she really said was:

“Glad to see Erin's book on your night table, but why won't you
tell us which you are reading? If you are writing a blog, please be so
good as to reveal your real reading preferences to us!”

I think the key phrase here is If you are writing a blog. My ambivalence about this hanging-out-in-public thing is showing. So is the fact that I never really explained what I was doing when I changed the focus of this blog from my moribund "23 Things on a Stick" project to simply books.

My hero, Nick HornbyWhat I wanted was to create something like Nick Hornby's wonderful monthly column in The Believer (now defunct, but collected in The Polysyllabic Spree and other books). Each column started with a list of books Hornby had bought that month, followed by a list of those he'd actually read — not necessarily drawn from the first list. (This had the effect of letting you keep score. If Hornby had read more books than he bought, he won; otherwise, he lost.) Then he described the experience of reading them, or more often what he did instead of reading them.

So the catalog of books by my bedside was supposed to be List #1 — my lofty goal — and you were supposed to learn from reading my golden words whether I actually succeeded in reading them. Clever, huh? Well, not really.

If I were following such a format for this post, my books-by-the-bedside list would look like this:

  • False Mermaid by Erin Hart
  • The Happiness Project; Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun by Gretchen Rubin
  • The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science by Richard Holmes
  • In the Hebrides by Alice Starmore
  • Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home by Rhoda Janzen
But here's the catch: I haven't been reading any of them. Or, rather, I did read The Happiness Project, but only because that was right before I gave my husband the birthday gift of a Kindle — and learned I could access his Kindle books through my iPod Touch. So here's what I've actually read this past month, all on an electronic screen:

  • The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who've Lived the Longest by Dan Buettner
  • So Brave, Young, and Handsome by Leif Enger (read for my book group)
  • Wide Awake: A Memoir of Insomnia by Patricia Morrisroe
  • The Eustace Diamonds by Anthony Trollope (it turns out that Trollope's Parliamentary novels are free in the Kindle store, but his Barsetshire ones aren't)
  • Can You Forgive Her? by Anthony Trollope
And I'm about one-sixth of the way through Phineas Finn as well. (Yes, I know I'm reading Trollope out of order. So sue me.)

All of which has left my literary world in a bit of a shambles. I thought I was one of those people who didn't consider a book a book unless it had pages and a cover; well, I have been drawn into Kindle's versions the same way that I would have been to the "dead tree" ones, and got just as irritated with Alice Vavasour there. (The original "Smart women, foolish choices.") At the same time, I am still buying books and checking them out of the library — yesterday I put myself on the wait list for three more — in the apparent belief that I have unlimited time to read any book in any medium.

So clearly I, like Alice Vavasour, cannot long continue on this headstrong course. But I will follow “Barb” ’s advice and do my utmost to keep you informed of my progress. Fair enough?

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