An avid book hoarder, I used to count down the days until a book came out and then go to the bookstore right then because I had to have it immediately (even though I had so many other books to read.) That feeling of giddy anticipation, the texture of the shiny hardbacks as I flipped through the pages on the way home… Something promising and hopeful opened up in me every time I held a new book in my hands – something to look forward to.
In this era of instant gratification – of instant download for consumers – that feeling has dulled quite a bit. I really struggle with my relationship to books now, especially since I got my e-reader. I walk into a bookstore, hold a book in my hands and think “How heavy is it? Maybe I’m better off downloading this on my Nook?” “How many pages is it?” and “how much is it?” often go together too – because I don’t want to pay over $20 for a slim 200 page book that I could download for (much) cheaper on my Nook. And if I’m going to be downloading these books, why I am in the bookstore at all? Most often, I end up just browsing, walking out without buying a thing. And that feeling is not promising. It’s futile. It’s deflating.
Has anyone else been struggling with these feelings? I feel like I barely go to the bookstore at all these days – there’s no need to, really, now that we can get whatever we want immediately, from the comfort of our homes. When I do go, as I mentioned above, buying books is a totally different experience. It’s a non-experience. And that makes me sad. It really does.
That said, I did go to Barnes and Noble on a date night of sorts with my husband a few weeks ago. To get myself out of this funk, I forced myself to buy books – more than that, to impulse buy, to pile so many books into my arms it was impossible to carry them all. When my husband sees me like this, walking around like a soon-to-topple literary giant, he breaks into a smile, while shaking his head. Then we go to the cash register and eliminate.
While holding each book in my hands I tried to silence that e-reading conscience of mine – to buy books because I wanted to buy them and I would. Here’s what I ended up with:
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri - Like me, Lahiri is a Barnard alum, so I’ve followed her career with interest. This novel, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and The National Book Award; critics are saying it’s her most accomplished, epic work to date. Lahiri always displays such clean economy with her prose and brings such a fine touch to narrative and the written word. I’m really looking forward to this one – the Blogger’s Recommend book I claimed I was going to read in September.
The Best American Essays 2013 edited by Cheryl Strayed - Have you read Tiny Beautiful Things? Do I really have to say more? I do? Okay, well, Cheryl Strayed is this bleeding, beautiful writer of uncanny depth, and perspective and warmth. There is no one like her really, in the field of Creative Nonfiction and being an essayist myself, I just had to pick this up. For some reason, I can’t abide the short story genre, but a well-written, heart-wrenching essay is right up my alley. And if Cheryl Strayed has handpicked them, they all undoubtedly will be.
The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon - There’s that impulse buy I was telling you about. Dystopian, young adult fantasy is totally not my thing, but this book has been getting so much press and was positively raved about at Book Expo America. Samantha Shannon is a former Oxford student and only 21 years old (a graduate of Oxford and a published writer? She has the life I dreamed about 10 years ago!) The Bone Season is the first book in a 7-book series and it’s already been optioned for film. Any 21-year-old writer who’s not only gotten her first book published but also gotten a 7-book deal and a movie contract is someone I have to read.
David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell – For my Dad – because he likes Malcolm Gladwell and I like buying him books.
Have you bought anything lately that you’re looking forward to reading? And as for my conflicted ramblings above, what do you think?