Monday, December 06, 2004

Book nerds

Jasper Fforde's The Well of Lost Plots was fun — literary pulp! — but nothing much happens. I expect it would've been more satisfying if I could've read the whole thing in one sitting some lazy Sunday morning in bed rather than in 5-minute snippets. Still, if you're a book nerd, there's much to enjoy. There just aren't enough pregnant heroes in the world, and I particularly like the conversation with Captain Nemo about the best coffee in the world.

(To avoid emitting outbursts regarding typos etc, which as a book nerd you're bound to make, please make sure your version is properly upgraded before you begin reading.)

There's a ton of end-of-year booklists out there and I love them! I'm always hoping to find something Brilliant and Important (although unputdownable or reasonably interesting will do) that I may have missed during the year.

I'd meant for this blog to be a place to record and review the books I read, but I never feel up to the task of organizing the project. (Similarly, I keep meaning to spruce the place up a bit, but then I figure it's about the content, not the pretty fonts and colours, and I get on with my day.) Really, who the hell cares what I'm reading and whether I liked it or not? Why the hell do I even want to document my reading? Is it just something book nerds can't help but do?

The other week I stumbled across a blog that includes a master list of all the books the blogger has read since 1979. (I'd started a list almost a decade ago for insurance purposes but never maintained it.) It was awe-inspiring and incredibly anal, and I was compelled to tell him so. He thanked me for the compliment and proceeded to tell me about the application he was hoping to build around it. What is it about book nerds?

Is this the quiet book lover's unassuming manner of advertisement, to surreptitiously suggest what you should be reading (to make you a better person, to make you smarter, to make you more like them)? Or a meaningless and self-proclaimed badge of honour?

There's a breed of book lover who loves to talk about books — not their stories and ideas, but the joy they take in the shopping for them, weight of them, smell of them. I'm one of those. When things are getting to be too much, I go hang out in a bookstore. The touch of them helps ground me.

Other bloggers are now posting year-end lists, and Michele asked about favourite reading spots the other day. It's got me examining my relationship with books in general. Time is not unlimited, yet I devote an insane amount of it to books — if not immersed in reading them, reading about them, planning their acquisition, blogging about them.

(Is there a Bookaholics Anonymous? Seriously. Where one's addiction isn't considered charming? I suppose most bookaholics wouldn't much care that books interfered with their social lives, but I wonder if it's been known to interfere with people holding down a job? Or are booklovers too smart to let that happen? Is there a book on the subject?)

Book nerd that I am, I still can't understand people who read while walking. I used to do that as a 7-year-old, reading Nancy Drew — I was always late for school and got in trouble often enough to curb the tendency. As a grown-up, I think you've got to be more assertive — read, or don't, or get to where you're going and then crack it open. Except when it's work, and you're reading a memo or report between offices. But you can't enjoy a good book that way, can you?


Suzanne said...

I think there also needs to be a category called "Bookaholic on Hiatus". I've written about this many times on my blog, and I'm still kind of bitter about it. I want more time to read, and more energy to stay awake at night so that I can read. I guess if I were REALLY committed, I'd sacrifice even more sleep.

In the meantime, like you, I spend a lot of time thinking about what I want to read and reading about books other people have written or read. It's kind of like peering through the window as this fabulous party is taking place.

I hope you continue to write about the books you read -- I enjoy your nuanced, philosphophical analyses!

Anonymous said...

I worked in bookstores (an idiosyncratic used store, a major chain, and a specialty children's store) for about 8 years. It is the best and worst job a book nerd can have. Best, obviously, because you're surrounded by books all the time, you have to read, you meet authors, you have that love of book-as-object. Worst, less obviously, because the pay is crap (considering the level of competence/education you need to do the job well); because there are more books in this world than you can ever hope to read, and being with them all the time just makes you hungrier; because there's all kinds of stupid things you're supposed to be attending to (customers! Evil evil customers!) instead of reading; and because, for all that you're selling something you believe in, it's still RETAIL.

That said, I can't walk into the children's book store here in Vancouver without this wave of homesickness coming over me, and grief that there are YA novels in this world that are already out in paperback that I haven't read yet...


Suzanne said...

I am a huge book nerd: we moved into a house and still don't have room for our books.

My first job was at a comic book store that specialized in SCI-FI novels and my job throughout university was at a large, independent bookstore.

I don't know why but there is something about holding a book in your hand, smelling it. I dream of books, I think about books that I want to read and I think about buying books and where I will buy them.

Surely you can enjoy a book while walking: it's not about the destination, it's about the journey :-)

Isabella K said...

I worked in a bookstore for just a couple months part-time. It was on the groundfloor of an office tower — its main business was supplying the female government workers with their regular Harlequin fix. In that sense, the books weren't a big distraction, and I was delivered from the spell of the job's glamour. Still, I couldn't understand that the only full-time employee didn't seem to care much for books at all. I guess to some, it's a business or a job like any other. (To their credit, this "independent bookseller" is still in business, and I occasionally find weird and wonderful things there.)