Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Review: So Many Books, So Little Time

So Many Books, So Little Time by Sara Nelson

This is a hot topic in the book blogosphere right now, thanks to the Something About Me Challenge and the Bibliography Challenge. If you want to hear any more about it from little ol' me, read on...

First off, I have to say that I reacted to Nelson like a character in a book, rather than the author. So I'm just going with that - I do know she's a real person who has the right to read and write and think whatever she likes.

- Overall, I liked the book well enough - I got through it quickly and was kept pretty interested. It was interesting to see how the books were affecting her, what thoughts they brought to her mind or how they related to what was happening in her life. But it didn't really seem like a chronicle of a "year of passionate reading." Several of our Something About Me-ers mentioned the passion in the "passionate reading" didn't come through and I agree. Becky summed it up really well: "...if it had been called "Thoughts on the Books I've Read This Year" instead I would have thought it delivered just fine."

- I also agree with About Me-er Alisonwonderland who says she didn't feel very engaged with Nelson - "a couple of times i found myself thinking that many of the book bloggers i know could have written this book at least as well, if not better." (Note - I do not include myself in that category!)

- Quite a few times Nelson reminded me of that Booking Through Thursday question about being a "Goldilocks reader" - she couldn't get into the book if things weren't just right. For someone who is a "passionate" reader, she seemed awfully picky. I didn't understand her Rule #1 that "location, location, location" applies to books as much as real estate. To me, if you really want to read a book, I don't think it matters which living room/state/weather zone you're sitting in. In one of her first entries, she ended up reading the only English book in the house - a biography of a Russian author whose family owned the place - during one vacation because she couldn't get into the one book she'd brought along because she felt it didn't match the Russia-like setting of the ski lodge. I found that really extreme and almost a kind of self-punishment for bringing the "wrong" book with her.

- Nelson claims (quite a few times) that she's not much of a re-reader: "And life is short, why waste time on something you already know, when you can discover something exciting and new?" This is how I feel; I have a few very beloved books and some that I've read a couple of times, but most of my books go right back to the library and that's the end of them, though I thank them for their company. But for someone who claims not to be much of a re-reader, she does it a lot in just one year of reading - I lost count, but I think there were at least 8 books that she'd read before. I think she needs to just admit she's a re-reader - it's not like there's anything wrong with it, it's good to have beloved books. And if you own as many books as she does in her cherry-shelved library, it seems odd you wouldn't re-read them. (But then, I'm not much for owning books, but I think I'm in the minority there.)

- She's a bit of a snob - in one of the appendices, she mentions trying out a Mary Higgins Clark mass market paperback and has to justify it by saying she was on a plane and didn't really remember much about it. I don't know anything about Mary Higgins Clark, but the disdain for mass market paperbacks and a hugely popular author irked me.

- She puts her planned reading list for the year in one of the appendices and no wonder she barely read any of them (2, I think)! They were almost all things she clearly didn't enjoy reading - poetry, short stories, and nonfiction (all of which she admits to not particularly enjoying) and a bunch of classics she hadn't gotten to yet. With a list like that, she was bound to "fail" (in the sense of not reading what she planned to read, I don't think she really did fail). I think we all have lists of "worthy" titles we'd like to get to, but to think you're going to do them all in a year seems like a lot of pressure.

- I was totally with her on this statement: "I have to read and read and read, all the while knowing that the more aggressively I pursue my passion, the sooner it will end and then I will be bereft." I've put off finishing books I'm loving so that I can keep that bereft feeling at bay a while longer.

- I do agree with her Rule #2 - timing. There are certainly books that you can't get into because you're too young, there's too much going on in your life and you're distracted, they're too close to something you can't face right now, or they're heavy and you need fluffy or they're fluffy and you want solid.

- I'm definitely a "double-booker, " too. I pretty much always have one book in my bag for the commute and errands and one by my bed, and fairly often another one somewhere in the house. She mentions being careful they're separate enough to not get them mixed up in your head. This happened to me earlier this year - I was reading 2 historical novels set in the Maritimes for 2 different book clubs. I picked up one and couldn't figure out where the narrator's many siblings and drunk father had got to and why they were dirt poor and lived in the city all of a sudden. (Not to mention that the narrator was now a boy instead of a girl!)

- I agreed with her about not really liking "publishing phenomena" - the books that are currently the talk of the town. It's nicer to either discover them first before you hear too much about them or to read them many years after the hype has died down.

- Not liking Mitch Albom and his touchy-feely pseudo-spiritual drivel (though I had to read The 5 People You Meet in Heaven for book club and she tried Tuesdays with Morrie after a friend suggested it.)

- I loved The Crimson Petal and the White and Slammerkin, too!

- One thing that I found quite funny - she really got into A Million Little Pieces and actually found it helpful to her marriage. I wonder how she felt when she discovered it was a sham? (Maybe the message still stayed the same, which was all that mattered.)


Kathleen said...

Wow now THAT is a thorough review! Great review.

tinylittlelibrarian said...

Thanks! I have to say, the book made me think, which for me isn't always a guarantee. :)

Literary Feline said...

I read this book about the time it came out and really enjoyed it. I didn't always agree with her though. I think what I liked most about the book was that it let me inside the world of book marketing and self-promotion, something I was not too familiar with before.

Anonymous said...

A very thorough and informative review - thanks so much.

Dewey said...

I like how your review is like notes about things that struck you, things you agreed or disagreed with. I felt really mixed reading this book, too. Sometimes I agreed, sometimes I disagreed, sometimes I didn't care.

tinylittlelibrarian said...

Literary Feline - that part was definitely interesting, particularly the chapter on Acknowlegements - I had no idea there was such strategy behind them! :)

Christine - thank you! I'm glad you liked it.

Dewey - Thanks, for some reason this one really got lots of reactions from me. Maybe I need to start reading more nonfiction? :)

maggie moran said...

So Many Books, So Little Time to read about reading books. Bah! :D

tinylittlelibrarian said...

Maggie - Hah! That sums it up well. :)