Instead of author interviews, I wish there were reader interviews. My favorite such exchange — and the only one I know of — is Scott Simon’s occasional Saturday morning conversation with the London cabbie on NPR’s Weekend Edition. All it takes is Scott’s “what are you reading?” and the cabbie takes over with what book he’s reading, where he found it, why he chose it, and what he thinks so far. I love it. A reader’s choices may not be the only measure of a person that counts, but it’s WAY up there.
Maybe my favorite reader-commentater is Joe Queenan. He occasionally writes a “reader essay” on the next to back page of the NYTBR . I remember especially one that a) argues for the importance of a book’s cover in choosing which book to read, b) recalls suffering through Thomas Hardy’s Return of the Native to satisfy school’s summer book list and wonders if times have changed (Somewhat.), c) grouses about poorly chosen gift books, and d) argues for never passing up a book that looks good, even if you have twenty-six others started.
Nina Sankovitch read a book a day for a year (Peter Appleborne, NYT 12/20/09), but she doesn’t say why she chose the books she did. Charlie noted they must have been short, I figured they were not engaging, Pam thought she had time on her hands, and we are all waiting for the book to come out. In that spirit, may I recommend my favorite book about a reader reading: Sara Nelson’s So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading. She chooses a book a week for a year for many, varied, and changeable reasons. Her choices are timely, serendipitous, and sometimes really wrong; but she tells you why she chose each book and if it works out. Roseledge Books will have this book next summer (she said, noting that it is out in paperback). Reader friend Kathy just gave me Murray Browne’s The Book Shopper: A Life in Review, which she loved because she was part of his book choosing. I will let you know.
We are 70 days into at least 6” of snow on the ground in Minnesota. I know it’s time for Maine when I sit for three hours straight to inhale the occasional glimpse of the ocean during the PGA’s Pebble Beach event. Sigh.
Joe Queenan cites:
a) “When Bad Covers Happen to Good Books,“ (NYTBR 12/6/09)
b) “Summer Bummer” (NYTBR 6/3/07)
c) “Wish List: No More Books,” (NYTBR 12/25/05) An aside: once the rant runs thin, think tax break and donate ineptly chosen gift books to the public library where the right reader will find it at the right time.
d) My personal search time limit of 10 minutes to find something I already know well enough ran out.