What is in your pile?
The pile of books perched at the edge of your nightstand. The pile of books stacked near your favorite reading chair or in a special section of a bookcase. Yes—the pile of books waiting to be read. The pile of books, that despite your best efforts, doesn’t seem to get any smaller but joyously, remains the same. Or, perhaps continues to grow, recommendation by recommendation.
I ask friends, “What are you reading,” and find that readers are happy to share details of the books they’ve recently read. If an NPR author interview catches my attention, that book may join my pile. The librarians at the Fairfield Public Library willingly share their favorite current reads. Just ask! I also receive recommendations from Goodreads and Amazon books.
Novelist Ann Patchett owns a bookstore, Parnassus Books, in Nashville, Tenn (photo). In an opinion piece for The Washington Post—“Owning a bookstore means you always get to tell people what to read” (April 22, 2015)—Patchett writes:
“Reading is a solitary act, but the transmission of books contains an aspect of joyful solidarity. At Parnassus, there is a constant river of people flowing past the new fiction releases, past U.S. history and down toward the children’s section and many have no idea what they want to read. They’ll walk right up to me and say, ‘I’m looking for a book.’ I wait for a minute, thinking surely there’s going to be more to that sentence—‘I’m looking for a book I heard about on the radio’ or ‘I’m looking for a book like The Goldfinch’ but often there is nothing else. They just smile up at me, trusting and curious, waiting to follow my instructions. It makes my heart soar. I ask them to tell me the last couple of books they’ve liked, just so I have some idea of whom I’m talking to. Then I lead them over to the shelves and get to work.”
Writers are most often strong readers. Some read a single book cover-to-cover. Others read several books at a time. “What are you reading” is a common-asked question during an interview with a writer. In a 2010 NPR interview, Jennifer Ludden asked author and 2005 winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing Julia Keller what she was reading. Keller responded, “And, indeed, I have the pile—I have this pile, several piles . . . of the most amazing array of books. And I couldn’t tell you specifically why each one was chosen except they just happen to garner my interest at the moment.” Her pile included Prodigal Summer (Barbara Kingsolver), Wolf Among Wolves (Hans Fallada) and an old collection of Doris Lessing short stories.
The expression “too many books, not enough time” is so true for me. I’ve finished The Pacific and Other Stories (Mark Helprin) and I’m currently reading A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety (Jimmy Carter). I pulled A Full Life from my pile, which includes, among other books, O Tomodachi (Dick Jorgensen), The Lost Landscape: A Writers Coming of Age (Joyce Carol Oates) and Pure Act:The Uncommon Life of Robert Lax (Michael N. McGregor). Pure Act joined my pile after hearing the author read from his work at the Fairfield University bookstore.
What are you reading? Please share your current read. Perhaps your recommendation will end up in someone’s pile.
Meanwhile, keep creating, word by word.—Donna Woods Orazio