Are We What We Read?

We shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but can we judge a reader by the titles on those covers? Are we what we read? If you look at titles separately, one book at a time, can we say, “Oh, yeah, that’s who she is. She would read that kind of book.”

One book at a time. That’s how it starts. Then comes grad school and the necessity of multiple titles being read whenever time can be nailed down. Then grad school is over, back to work, kids at home, and not at home, and back to one book at a time. Then no children at home and new job at a bookstore; then back to reading in multiples. I would read, write blurbs to put in front of face-out books, or blurbs which stuck out of the tops of books like cartoon balloons, and finally book reviews for a local rag. And hand-selling required a sturdy nightstand to hold those books I’d promised one customer or another I would read and report back on.

An insightful and positive glimpse into multiple reading was written by Amy Stewart for Village Books: http://villagebooksblogs.typepad.com/village_books_blog/2013/03/the-art-of-reading-multiple-books-vs-one-at-a-time-.html  And, by the way, if you are ever traveling in the Northwest, be sure and stop by Village Books in Bellingham or Fairhaven WA.

Then came retirement! Back to one book at a time. That was followed by building a book review website – now read as much and as many and as fast as possible. Back to multiple reads. Bookin’ with Sunny has amazing reviewers, which means I also want to read the books they’ve recommended. More books on the nightstand and another stack  next to my reading chair in the living room .

The only books read straight through are ones so captivating that nothing is done until the last page is read. These are guilt-makers.

Nightstand reads are separate from deadline reads. Last night I looked at my stack and wondered if I should die in my sleep, would the person who finds my body judge me by the books at hand?  And that stack? On top, Julius Lester’s Time’s Memory, a YA novel of a few years back, a book about slavery; Lisette’s List by Susan Vreeland (and recently reviewed by Ann Ronald), a story of art, love, war, and France; Tenth of December by George Saunders, a rare collection of near-perfect short stories; Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey 3rd Ed., this is read in the shortest of snippets; then Brian Turner’s Phantom Noise, a collection of poems with the distant and ever-returning sounds of war at its heart; Suspended Animation by Nathalie op de Beeck, a fabulous book about picture books, another of my favorite genres; and finally, Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt, a story about the world of  art — its artists, critics and those who sell it — written by a most intelligent writer with a wicked sense of humor. By the time I finish this last book, I’m hoping I will have gained courage enough to review her earlier work, The Summer without Men, which I read last summer. So what do the books we read say about us? Book Browse has a fun quiz to answer just that question: https://www.bookbrowse.com/quiz/

And now back to my nightstand where the title of the small, green-stemmed glass is Port and the matching green frog is a leveling reminder of this reader’s roots. The lovely alabaster lamp with its original yellow shade is another nod to a past that never dreamed of being lighted by a bulb that would likely outlive the reader. My goal is a simple one: outlive the night, get a few more chapters read and give thanks to the authors, the vintners and the family that got me this far.  – Sunny Solomon

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