People Who Write About Reading
I am pining for Nick Hornby’s “Stuff I’m Reading” column, the one he wrote for The Believer. The one he stopped writing in September of 2008. The column that was published in three collected editions, which I wrote about here.
I love the way Hornby writes (wrote) about reading. He didn’t review books so much as he meditated upon his reading life. These ruminations were smart, funny, thought-provoking, and appetite-whetting.
I miss them.
Noel Perrin is another writer-about-reading whose work—A Child’s Delight and A Reader’s Delight—I greatly enjoy. He foreshadowed book blogs, really, with his self-appointed mission to talk about backlist titles most people have missed, but (in his view) shouldn’t have.
Who else? Who writes about the reading life in a way that makes you hungry to read the same books?
Ms. Mental Multivitamin comes to mind. (She’s the person from whom I learned about Hornby’s Believer column in the first place.) Oh, and Lizzie Skurnick, she of Jezebel’s Fine Lines column. In Fine Lines, Lizzie has revisited a vast number of the books she read as a child and teenager—everything from A Wrinkle in Time to Summer of Fear. Her columns, which are sometimes salty and often snarky, are insightful and always respectful of the text. Many of them were collected in a book called Shelf Discovery, which I ought to have put on my 2009 books-I-read list somewhere except I couldn’t figure out which month it should go under. Not that it matters, of course. Shelf Discovery was my take-along tome to gymnastics and other wait-y places last fall, so the reading of it stretched out over about three months, in fits and starts. I’d read and enjoyed many of the columns republished in the book, and they were just as engaging the second time around.
I subscribe to a staggering number of book blogs—so many that I feel quite paralyzed at the thought of singling any out by name. How could I choose? I can’t keep up with them all, anyway. I do tend to stay more current with the blogs that, like Hornby, discuss books rather than review them. It’s hard to explain. Before I’ve read a book, I don’t want to know too much about it. As I’m reading it, I burn burn burn to talk about it with anyone who will listen, and I have a habit of thrusting book after book upon longsuffering friends and husbands, begging them to read what I’m reading so we can tawk amongst ourselves.
Scott stayed up too late last night finishing a new Nick Hornby novel, Juliet Naked. Would you believe I haven’t read a single one of Hornby’s novels? I’ve seen the films based on his fiction: About a Boy (heart with many hearts) and High Fidelity (makes me extremely cranky). But I’ve not read the fiction itself. That’s very strange, considering the way I have devoured his literary nonfiction. This time Scott’s the one urging me to read the book. It’s funny, though. I thoroughly enjoy Hornby’s insights about other fiction, but I’m not sure I trust his wry, exasperated, subversive self to give me a story that’ll work the way I want a story to work. I guess we’ll see.
How far do you think I’ll get before I have to come write about it?