I love books. I love books with a deep irrational passion. I love touching them, smelling them, organizing them, being surrounded by them, and even reading them. I enjoy shopping for them, reviewing them, even considering reading them and deciding against it.
My mom taught me to read very early (four), and I’ve been borrowing books from the library by the boxful ever since. I read so much, all the time, and my brother did the same. Since neither of us thought eating was worth putting a book down for, my dad eventually invented the Bookhug to serve our needs. Among other things, once he got going.
It’s an incredible pleasure to work at the library now. Just to be surrounded by books is enough, but in some small way to perform book husbandry is another level. I love chatting with the women that chew through books like paper shredders, always looking for new authors, and I like observing the flow of books- what books are circulating and what books are “so hot right now”. Many books get returned and are signed out again within ten minutes. I like scrutinizing who borrows what, and the remarkable bank of knowledge many people must have, judging by the diversity of what they consume.
People are often asking for something new, and they ask me, the librarian of the day. It seems a very weighty responsibility, this power of suggestion. It’s quite an influential act- pointing someone towards their next book. That could have some big butterfly effect. Half the people asking typically read things I consider escapist garbage, so for them I can only point out what’s been really popular lately.
Kids are fun. When they like a book, they tell you alllll about it, so you will never have to read it. “And then… and then… and thennnn, and thenandthenandthen!” There don’t seem to be many kids like the kid I used to be, voraciously consuming, shelf by shelf, but there are a few who come in and sulk that there’s not enough new stuff. They’ve read them all.
Covering the new books when they’re entering circulation is very interesting. There’s always a stack of books to barcode and shroud in their protective library casings. Doing this is a prime chance to observe books from all walks of the catalog, so to speak, many that I’d never otherwise seek out nor even happen upon. Last week there was a stack of bodice rippers. The back covers suggested “gripping” tales of “untamed” men “undone” by the “fiery innocence” of the heroine. I have no idea what this means. Highland “thegn”s seem to be in fashion right now.
Maybe I should take up romance novels. After readying a whole raft of swarthy men in kilts with a windblown heroine in one arm and a sword in the other, and shelving them in a line of a hundred others exactly the same, I had some questions. Aren’t all the plots used up by now? How can these still be churned out? Are they evolving with the times? Do they just change the names and throw a new cover on the same story every couple years? Recycle the whole collection? How can they be different enough from each other for someone to know if they’ve read it already? And above all, who’s reading these? Really, I’m going to have to try out a few; find out what’s happening behind this door.
Another thing I’ve noticed is the tyranny of beauty in our culture that has extended to authors. Apparently the author’s photo is such a big part of the branding/image/saleability that a pic of David Baldacci looking ruggedly stern can take up the entire back cover of his latest thriller. Apparently women that write books must look exceptionally attractive, made up, and glamourous for their books to have cachet. I think that’s just not even fair. These are people who write books! They spend their days alone, wired on coffee, in sweat pants and crouched over a keyboard. It’s just too much to ask these people to have perfect skin, dazzling style and serene expressions more often associated with a martini on a beach. They write. They’re tormented by forks in the plot. They have lines between their eyes from stalking perfect adjectives in the jungle. What is wrong with our culture that readers want their authors to look as Hollywood as the invented characters that walk their pages. Why does Janet Evanovich have to look like a relaxed Miranda Hobbes? Anita Shreve need to resemble Kim Cattrall? I have my suspicions that some authors’ photos are of paid models, yet a few books have pics of more candid, “natural” (nerdy; harassed) men and women, and even fewer have no picture at all.