Let’s talk about the books we have been reading. And NOT reading.
But before we do that – and before you give some suggestions for GOOD books to read, because, as will be perfectly clear in about 4,000 words, I have faced a real Dearth of Good Books lately – let us digress a little to discuss one of the major differences between me and my husband.
My husband and I both LOVE to read. We are both the type of person who buys a stack of books and then starts looking for the next book to buy while we’re not even done with the first book in the stack.
We are also both the type to read multiple books at a time.
That’s where the similarities end.
Here is a photo of our bed and nightstands. See if you can spot the difference.
So, my husband may read as many as three books at a time. I think, right now, he’s reading the second in the Game of Thrones series (so we can get started on season two of the TV show FINALLY). He checked out some book from the library recently, which I think he may have started. I can’t remember if he’s started Wicked or if he’s saving it until after he finishes the other(s).
He may also be reading something on the Kindle, and, occasionally he “reads” a book on tape while he’s driving to and from work.
Anyway, my husband’s nightstand is neat and clean. Aside from the few books, it holds a picture of me as a child that he has deemed especially cute, a recent issue of Consumer Reports, and a book of puzzles.
He keeps reference books (and the aforementioned Kindle) in the open cupboard portion of the nightstand.
Two of my husband’s favorite things to do are to a) pick the next book he is/I am going to read and b) put away books that have just been finished.
It’s one of his most endearing quirks – in fact, I think I’ve mentioned it in this space before – that he loves the task of rearranging our bookshelves to accommodate new tomes. I’m not sure why; the simple logic of alphabetization, perhaps? The chance to go through all the books he has and hasn’t read? A combination of both?
It’s nice for me. I never have to set foot in our (tiny) “library” – or even get out of bed if I need something new to read.
But he has been frustrated with me the last few months.
Because I have been collecting books atop my nightstand like it’s the only book storage space in our entire house.
(It’s not. The “library” has three bookshelves. The office has two and a half. One of the guest rooms has one. While we could always use MORE bookshelves, we’re not out of room by any stretch of the imagination.)
Take a look at what I mean.
So, Internet, it has been an off few months for books.
Sure, I’ve found a handful I
But the majority of books I’ve started have been stinkers.
Yet… I can’t bring myself to just… quit.
Which is odd. Usually, I have no problem deciding that a book just isn’t working out for me, and closing it and putting it out of my mind. Maybe my recent reluctance has to do with the high hopes I had for the books in question? Agent 6 is the perfect example. I devoured Tom Rob Smith’s first two books – Child 44 and The Secret Speech – and couldn’t WAIT to get my hands on Agent 6. And then it was just kind of… boring. So I’ve been halfway through it since… August? July? Who knows. But because I was so in love with the first two, and had such high hopes for this one, I just can’t GIVE UP, you know?
(The reluctance to give up on a book may also have to do with the book recommender, now that I think of it. Two of the books – Leaving the Atocha Station and The Orphan Master’s Son – on my unfinished pile were either purchased for me or recommended by my husband. And I think he also recommended that I read Await Your Reply, which I honestly can’t remember if I DID finish or not.)
(One of the books I haven’t finished – A Point in Time – was recommended by my father-in-law. So I can’t very well put THAT ONE back until I’ve good and finished the book, right?)
Let’s talk about the fact that there are four Patricia Cornwell books on my nightstand. (One in each pile, apparently. Way to represent, PCorn!)
I was a HUGE Patricia Cornwell fan my entire teenager- and college-hood. Her Scarpetta series was one of my all-time favorite mystery series. Until 2005. That was the year that she made an appearance at a St. Louis Barnes & Noble (or Borders?) and my then-boyfriend and I went to see her. She gave a little speech and then signed books, and we got our photo taken with her and I bought a copy of her newest book (signed) to give to my father.
Her newest book, at that time, was Blow Fly and it was a departure from her normal writing style. No longer first-person, but third-person omniscient.
And it was AWFUL.
I gave up reading her books until this past Christmas, when my husband’s aunt (my aunt-in-law?) gave me a Patricia Cornwell book that was a few books further down in the series. And I read it and enjoyed it! It wasn’t as good as I remember the original books to be. But it was WAY better than Blow Fly. So I decided I needed to get back into the series, and to really do so PROPERLY, I had to read all of the books between Blow Fly and whatever book I got for Christmas; I can’t honestly remember. It may be one of the ones on my nightstand WHO KNOWS. Anyway, I read a couple of them – Book of the Dead and… something else – and now I’m trying to read Trace but it’s SO BAD. The primary plot is dragging along like an overweight three-legged alligator and there are a couple of secondary storylines that haven’t intersected with the main plot yet… but you know they WILL, and there are only so many pages left in which they CAN, so I anticipate that there will be a sudden flurry of tying-togetherness that will seem haphazard and sloppy. Plus, one of the main characters of the series has morphed into someone fairly unlikable and I’m not really appreciative of that trend. Honestly, none of the main characters seem all that likable right now – like Cornwell is focusing so hard on making them flawed heroes that she forgot to make them relatable. And what else can I complain about? Oh yes, the WRITING. It’s as though Cornwell had an outline sketched on a cocktail napkin or something, but when she sat down to flesh it out, she didn’t have enough meat, so she’s filled in entire paragraphs with meaningless repetition and “character development” that makes me hate the characters.
So that’s why I haven’t finished Trace. It’s still on my nightstand because I feel DRIVEN to finish it, though, and finish the other intervening books between the god-awful Blow Fly and whatever book I read in December. But feeling driven to finish a book and actually plowing through to the end are two wholly different things.
Let’s move away from what turned into some real bashing of one of my favorite authors. (She really IS one of my favorites. And I sympathize with what’s going on with her Scarpetta series. It must be exhausting to have to continue a series that may have begun to feel a little stale to you… and tremendously difficult to switch writing styles when you have been writing in one way for so long. I am cheered to know that she DOES settle into the new style and I have every reason to believe that the rest of the series will be GREAT.)
There are two Thursday Next books on my nightstand. I started reading one a while ago and had the sinking feeling that I’d read it before. I couldn’t actually remember what HAPPENED in the books, thinking ahead… but as I would be reading along, I’d feel strongly that everything was happening as I knew it would. Very odd sensation, to not know what was coming around the bend of the next page, but to know, when it happened, that you weren’t surprised in the least. I am explaining this very poorly. It was like book déjà vu. There.
The other Thursday Next book is – I think? – the most recent, and I had taken it with me to Montana last summer and who knows if I read it or not. I haven’t yet cracked the cover to see. (Although who knows if I would even REMEMBER if I HAD read it. Sheesh. Maybe I should give up reading all together.)
Right now, I am reading Canada, which I am thoroughly enjoying. (After all, it does take place in a part of the world very near to where I grew up.) The plot – while elongated – is engaging and most of the book is contemplative in a way that makes me actually THINK about what the author is getting at, and there’s a lot of nice description and character development of interesting, flawed-yet-relatable (mostly) characters and, well, it keeps me awake far longer than most books have of late. So that’s SOMETHING.
So that’s on top and nearest to the bed, which means I am less likely to plop it down as my eyes are growing heavy and tip a entire pile of books off the edge of the nightstand, which has happened oh about twenty times in the past few months.
Most of the other books on the nightstand are not really the kind of books you read all in one go.
You pick them up on a night when you’re not in the mood for serial killers (although, when am I not in the mood for serial killers????) or literary fiction, and read a poem or a chapter until your mind is either settled by soothing rhythms and sounds or set a-racing by the terrors of child birth/rearing so that you must turn, instead, to Trace, which puts you asleep almost immediately.
The last pile on the nightstand has NO REASON to exist.
Well, to exist on my nightstand, that is.
It’s a pile of books I have actually finished. (And I enjoyed some of them! In a couple of cases – the Rob Lowe memoir and The Boy in the Suitcase and the Sophie Hannah book and maybe that’s it – immensely!)
Are they still there to remind me that a) I AM capable of finishing books and b) good, readable books DO exist?
Who knows, Internet. Who knows.
Now is your chance to shake yourself out of the stupor that this long and ridiculous post has undoubtedly forced upon you, and recommend some other books for me to read. And, while you’re at it, books I should NOT read. I’d rather not ADD to the pile, you know.