Anita Brookner

In addition to the four books I’ve had going in recent days, I’ve begun reading Sara Nelson’s So Many Books, So Little Time. I’ve got mixed feelings about it. It’s kind of fun, and it keeps me interested and happily turning the pages, but … I’m just not that impressed with her book discussions. The idea behind the book is that she’ll read a book a week for a year and then write about them. The chapters are short meditations on some of those books — she’s also got a list at the back of books she read but didn’t discuss — where she writes about how she found the book, what the book’s about, what she thinks about it. The chapters tend to have more on context, how she found the book and the circumstances in which she’s reading it, than about content.

She’s got a chapter on “The Clean Plate Book Club,” about how she learned to set down books she’s not enjoying rather than suffering through to the end, and another on what it means when a new friend gives you a book — it’s the moment of truth, when you find out for sure if this friendship will last. She writes about how important the location and the timing are in determining how much you will enjoy a book, and about what it feels like to get completely wrapped up in a book so much so that you can’t put it down.

All that’s good. But I’m reading along and thinking that my blog writer friends do this exact same thing and do it better. It’s a reading diary, and an exploration of what it’s like to be a reader, and a discussion of a lot of individual books, and I love that stuff, but I’m thinking I now prefer to get it from a bunch of blogs rather than a book. It strikes me as much nicer to read a person’s reading diary as it gets produced, in regular blog posts, and to be able to comment on it and maybe influence how that reader thinks and what he or she reads, and to be able to respond on my blog, and do all the things book bloggers do. As far as reading diaries go, they seem much more interesting on blogs than in books, where they can be interactive and immediate.

I’m also not connecting with Nelson’s choice of books, which accounts for some of my mixed feelings. I picked up the book hoping to get some good recommendations, at least, but nothing she’s reading is really getting my interest. For this type of book to work, the author has to win the reader over, and I’m feeling a little bit resistant still. I’m hoping to get a little more excited about the book as I read further (being a loyal member of the Clean Plate Book Club, I’m afraid), and it is reliably entertaining, but I’m coming away from it feeling more than justified in all the time I devote to reading book blogs.

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