Musings on the Wild World of Writing & Editing

Archive for August, 2012

You Can’t Take It With You

As a young twenty-something, I still find that death is a fleeting thought in the back of my mind. The idea of dying looms, flitting in and out of my consciousness, but I rarely give it too much thought. I’ve made a commitment to myself to live happily and fully, enjoying the little things in life–“Profitez des petits plaisirs de la vie, car un jour vous vous rendrez compte qu’ils étaient vraiment les grands plaisirs” or “Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you will realize they were really the big things.” But apart from this mission to enjoy life as I’m living it, I don’t often think about my impending death, whether it’s today, next week, or sixty years from now. But I recently read an article by Amanda Katz entitled “Will Your Children Inherit Your E-Books?” (full article here: http://www.npr.org/2012/06/21/155360197/will-your-children-inherit-your-e-books). Up until reading this article, I hadn’t fully considered the fact that you can’t inherit electronic files the same way you can inherit books, CDs, movies in hard copy. I’ve felt the obvious frustration when I wanted to loan a friend a book I’d read on my Kindle, but since I have no children and am still quite young, I hadn’t thought about it in terms of dying.

The problem of book inheritance is a relatively new one: mass printing of books didn’t become commonplace until the steam-powered press and cheap paper expanded book publication in the mid-19th century. Before that, the most prized book that was passed down from parent to child was probably the Bible. Now, however, as books are relatively cheap, avid readers can collect hundreds of books over the course of a lifetime. This problem is somewhat similar to the issue we face with sorting through a deceased loved one’s possessions in general: before the Industrial Revolution or even the Great Depression, families did not accumulate many worldly goods, at least apart from the necessities for life. Once mass manufacturing made goods cheaper and an exploding middle class started clamoring to spend, houses began to fill with the trappings of a conspicuous-consumption-based life. Possessions and items became a symbol of status (available suddenly to all rather than just the upper crust of society) and keeping up with the Joneses. Back in the day, cleaning out a parents’ house before was relatively simple: gathering up basic housewares and the few keepsakes the family had accumulated. Before this printing boom, few families could afford extensive libraries, and these libraries were treasured, so that a child’s inheritance of these books was cherished and highly valued.

Compare this paucity of possessions with my grandmother’s house, which my parents helped clean out in 2010: a closetful of muskets they didn’t even know existed, dozens of trinkets and art deco tchotchkes, drawers and drawers of random documents stretching back decades, a random shopping bag full of pistols in the basement, boxes of old photos, and so on. Unfortunately, my late grandmother was not much of a reader, so there were not many books to divide between her three sons. But what of those of us who are only too willing to buy a book and never sell it? What happens when we pass on and leave a houseful of books behind us?

According to Katz, the market is somewhat saturated with used books. Even The Strand bookstore in New York City refuses to buy back many copies nowadays, unless the book was owned/signed/annotated by an important/famous person or the book is a rare/collectible edition. Hopefully bookstores life Half Price or even libraries will take in these old books (if the child does not want to take them), and the books will enter back into circulation to be loved and enjoyed by a new audience. If not, a child (or grandchild) is faced with the daunting task of finding a home for possibly hundreds of books that may only be worth pennies at this point. Transporting books is difficult as they are heavy and can take up a lot of space, and selling back books online (such as at Amazon) individually is an arduous and time-consuming task. My greatest hope is that eventually any book will become rare and/or valuable (any book is eventually a “first edition” or will go out of print) and will someday be appreciated. If not, I can only pray that people still go hunting at garage sales for good books.

Katz thinks that e-books, which are unlikely to be passed on after the owner’s death (password protection and planned obsolescence for technology being major obstacles to inheritance), are an improvement over the old system–the 150-year print boom. According to Katz, “With e-books, there’s no need to fight over a single physical library copy; no trees need be cut down; unsold books need not be pulped; you don’t need to lug books from apartment to apartment; pages will never be dotted with mildew.” For one thing, I think that Katz is forgetting that many people, even those who own e-readers, still buy print books. The print age is far from over, even if much of it is going digital. Despite the move to a more digital age, the physical book is far from dead.

Also, I hope that we never go completely digital with books. As I’ve already mentioned before in a previous blog post, I keep buying physical books to prevent the possibility of a Fahrenehit 451-like society in which we burn books with little old ladies dying with their collections as the pages go up in flames. Although it’s possible my children (if I have them–a big if) will not treasure my books when I’m gone, I still imagine that they might fall into the hands of someone who will love and cherish them.

Fortunately, Katz does wonder what we will lose as the accumulation of print books slows (although I am not sure this is an actual trend as even those who own e-readers still buy many print books): “Among all the gifts of the electronic age, one of the most paradoxical might be to illuminate something we are beginning to trade away: the particular history, visible and invisible, that can be passed down through the vessel of an old book, inscribed by the hands and the minds of readers who are gone.” Many of the books I refuse to sell are those that have been given to me as gifts. My parents and grandparents have always inscribed a note along with the date when giving me the book. Maybe if my books fall into the hands of strangers, they will find these notes heartwarming and unique. After all, I love seeing an inscription at the beginning of used books I buy. It gives the book a soul beyond its words.

A book is more powerful than an Amazon password or a thumb drive of files. I doubt we will ever move into a truly digital age where no one buys print books anymore, and I’m sure that most parents will leave behind at least a few books. Maybe we can’t keep all of them, maybe they’ll get sold or trashed or mushed into pulp, but I cannot help but hope that a few are saved to survive the generations. After all, any new book printed today may be old and rare someday. And things are worth the value we ascribe to them. I’m attached to a virtually worthless collection of old magazines I cut up to make collages. Perhaps someone will find them and cherish the zeitgeist that these magazines have preserved. I still put faith in future generations to give value to books, both old and new.

An update: I just found this article at the NY Times about the used book industry: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/13/books/larry-mcmurtrys-book-auction-in-texas.html

The Title Tidal Wave

I am an odd mixture of idealist and cynic. I tend to think the best of people and believe them at face value (read: gullible) except for politicians, corporate executives, and celebrity gossipers. So imagine my surprise and horror at reading “Social Media Scamsters” by Laura Miller (full article can be found here: http://www.salon.com/2012/08/09/social_media_scamsters/). Apparently–and this never occurred to me for some inexplicable reason, authors will hire companies to write fake reviews: “In addition to services that will churn out fake five-star Amazon ‘reader’ reviews for a fee, an author can hire a company to produce his Twitter feed, faking a relationship with his fans (if he has any to begin with) in a medium that once promised a form of direct contact.” I was disillusioned. Why? Because I trust reader reviews and use them as a way to find new books to read. As Laura Miller’s friends agreed together, “‘You always have to read the reader reviews first, before you buy anything…'” Unfortunately, this was my approach, too. I would see a title in a magazine or a bookstore and then look it up online to see what other readers were saying. I don’t necessarily go to traditional reviewers from newspapers, because I’m at the whim of the personal opinions of the reviewer. I went for breadth rather than depth, quantity rather than quality, for my reviews. Browse through the reviews, see what they say, buy or not buy. A fairly simple process. Now I’m not so sure who I can trust.

Part of the problem is that I struggle enough as is just narrowing down the huge flood of books that come out every week. Yes, we always have obvious frontrunners appearing at the big display when we walk into the bookstore (but is based on the actual quality of the book or the size of the marketing budget?), and the New York Times bestseller list can give us a few suggestions. But the sheer volume of publication is staggering–not only do we have the titles from the dozens (if not hundreds) of publishers pouring out on every subject in every style, we also face the river rapids of self-published works. I don’t even know where to turn anymore or where to begin. I walk into a bookstore and feel almost paralyzed by the options. And online retailers are no longer very helpful. Unless you know the exact title and author of the book you’re searching for, online booksellers are fairly useless. For one thing, Amazon sells much more than books, so their welcome page is cluttered with ads for other items based on the cookies that your computer has accumulated. And believe you me, these cookies can be wildly inaccurate. I recently looked up what Google guessed about my interests, gender, and personality based on what I had browsed on the Internet, and apparently I’m a 65-year-old woman who enjoys hip-hop and the urban music scene.

Another problem with these recommendations is that they’re based on subject matter, not style. And Amazon also gives recommendations based just on what you’ve searched, not what you’ve actually bought. For example, I looked up a bunch of Western philosophy books for market research for a book I’m content editing, and now I have a bunch of recommendations for philosophy and metaphysics. Rather than giving me similar titles based on style, syntax, or author, I end up with a list that isn’t tailored to my taste, just my interests. Amazon lacks the sophisticated tools of recommendations in other media: Pandora, the online music radio, has devised a music “genome” so that the music it generates for you is based on over 2,000 focus traits such as syncopation, key, harmonies, etc. Amazon doesn’t provide suggestions based on the underlying features and architecture of the writing, just the superficial traits and characteristics.

Now I can’t even trust reviews. Stephen Leather, a British author, admitted, “‘As soon as my book is out I’m on Facebook and Twitter several times a day talking about it. I’ll go on to several forums, the well-known forums, and post there under my name and under various other names and various other characters. You build up this whole network of characters who talk about your books and sometimes have conversations with yourself.'” Of course, you can sift through the many reviews from Publishers Weekly an mainstream newspapers, and a simple search of the book title plus “review” can yield some helpful search results.

I was talking to my boyfriend about this problem I have in finding new stuff to read. I feel so overwhelmed by the vast number of titles appearing weekly that I don’t know where to begin. As he has a BFA in film, I asked him why it seems so much easier to find movies you might like over books you might like. First, I mentioned that there’s no one reliable site for books like Rotten Tomatoes for movies. Yes, you can read the NY Times review, but again, that’s only one reviewer. Rotten Tomatoes is the consensus of hundreds or thousands of reviews. Yes, of course, some people could generate false reviews, but the number of people reviewing a movie far outweighs the number of people appearing on forums and reviewing books. You get a better picture of the quality of the movie because you have more input that might drown out the false reviews.

Second, the number of movies that are readily available to the public is much fewer than books. Yes, hundreds of movies come out a year, but the ones that appear in most movie theaters are limited. There’s a smaller selection, whereas books come out in the dozens from large publishers all yelling into the foray, creating white noise where reviews and recommendations once lived. This leads me to my third point that finding a possible movie to watch takes less time than checking out a book. Serious book browsers have to take the time to open the book, read the inside flap, then the first few pages to see if they like the subject and style. This process can take anywhere from 1 to 20 minutes. By contrast, movies come out in clips and trailers that usually last no longer than 2.5 minutes and require less brain activity to process. Also, these trailers are ubiquitous: on YouTube, on TV, in movie theaters. Books don’t receive the same level of advertising.

There are of course some similarities between the two media. Books are often sold based on author, just as movies are advertised based on director and/or the actors featured in the film. Yet, there are relatively few authors who have attained this household-name celebrity status–the first few that come off the top of my head are Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, Stephenie Meyer, and so on. And these authors primarily write fiction. Try to think of three tremendously popular nonfiction writers. Can’t think of any? Me neither. Instead, books come out in mass quantities by lesser-known or new authors just trying to get a shout into the din.

When I walk into a bookstore or library, I’m at a loss. I don’t know which way to turn. I can trust the recommendation of a friend, check out what books are recommended by the staff, look at the featured titles on the display tables. But how am I going to know which book I will truly enjoy? At this point, I’ve decided that the best method is one of the oldest methods: guess and check. Pick a book up, read a few pages, then make a best estimate based on what I’ve read so far. It’s not a perfect system, but it’s what I have. I’m currently hoping for an invitation from the new site Riffle (more info at http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/digital/retailing/article/52628-could-riffle-be-the-pinterest-of-book-discovery-.html) which seeks to whittle down the amount of people writing reviews for a more streamlined recommendation system. However, the site only admits users on invitation, so for now I’m out of luck.

No matter what method I use, I’m still an avid reader. I’ll never read everything. After all, there’s only so much you can consume. But perhaps it’s the journey of finding great books that makes the trip so worthwhile. You read good books, okay books, mediocre books, bad books until you find one that truly touches your heart and engages your mind. It gets a special place on your bookshelf and/or in your memory, because you have to read a few bad books to appreciate a truly spectacular one.

The Reading Renaissance?

Before I get down to business, I have some news to share. I recently got published in the Sagebrush Review, Volume 7. I’m pretty excited that I’m in a book that’s on Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Sagebrush-Review-Volume-Brooke-Wallace/dp/098234533X/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1344608988&sr=8-2&keywords=sagebrush+review) and that has an ISBN number. If you the extra funds and are so inclined, it’s definitely worth spending the fifteen dollars.

Now that I have unabashedly and shamelessly promoted myself, I can get on with it. I recently read an article from the Guardian about how publishing really is still going strong (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/aug/08/publishing-fifty-shades-books-important). Even though the publishing world is having some major setbacks (DoJ lawsuit, anyone?), people are still buying books. In fact, “Kindle readers buy four times the number of books they did prior to owning a Kindle.” Although we might hate Amazon for its relentless and crushing rise to the top, at least we have evidence that people are continuing to buy and read books, albeit from the evil empire. Self-publishers (apparently they’re now called indie authors, which I think is a more appealing if more hipster-ish title) are still churning out books like there’s no tomorrow, some of which are even better selling than traditionally published works. Penguin just invested $100m on a company that sells DIY services to aspiring self-publishers.

I prefer to think that publishing isn’t a dying industry, just one that’s undergoing some serious growing pains and enduring massive upheaval as the industry enters the electronic age. I was at a dinner with a family friend of my boyfriend, and he asked me what I was planning to do after my graduation. I told him I hoped to enter the publishing industry and eventually become an acquisitions editor. His first question: “Isn’t that a dying industry?” Like I said, I don’t think publishing is on a slow and inevitable decline. I told him, as patiently as I could, that publishing is trying to adjust to a new era of e-readers and tablets, indie authors, and growing competition from online booksellers. Yes, publishers are reporting losses (partially because of legal fees from the DoJ lawsuit, an ill-informed lawsuit from a government that doesn’t understand the ins and outs of a complicated industry), and university presses are shutting down. But I think it’s partially a matter of time while publishers re-calibrate their methods to suit a new era where books are interactive and recommendations and reviews appear anywhere from an established magazine to a blog (such as this one). New material is pouring out as both publishers and indie authors continue to put their work on the market. On a side note, I find this inundation of material a tad bit overwhelming. I walk into a library or bookstore and can’t figure out where to begin or what to read. But that’s another post for another day–where we should turn to find new titles.

But I did take issue with one of this article’s points–that of the massive success of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy and how that’s evidence of the publishing industry’s continued power and prowess. Phillip Jones writes, “Every half-decade the book business comes up with a title that crystallises what it means to put an author in touch with a reader: a relationship that can be both bountiful and long-lasting.” Despite the trilogy’s success, I don’t think it deserves a special place in publishing history. For one thing, its writing is almost as bad as the Twilight Saga, if not worse (to check out what I mean by bad writing, look at reasoningwithvampires.tumblr.com). Also, it appeals to a fairly narrow audience: adult women who finally get an excuse to read “acceptable” erotica. In my opinion, if you want to read respectable erotica, just open Lady Chatterley’s Lover. I’d have to argue that other series and books are much better proof of the enduring power of books, ones that are much more far-reaching and teach much better lessons than how to have kinky sex. The obvious example is the Harry Potter series, a series that made reading cool again and introduced an entire generation to the magic of the written word. The series’ success far outstrips the popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey. For one thing, HP a coming-of-age saga about good versus evil and the amazing power of love–familial, platonic, and romantic. Twilight, by comparison, is mostly about how important it is to have a boyfriend. And also, the book that (I hope) will define this half-decade is not soft-core porn but a book about courage, bravery, and honor: the Hunger Games series. By no means high literature, this series is inspiring a generation of young readers to value strength, whether it be mental, emotional, or physical. Despite the fact that I take issue with the amount of violence it reveals to kids, The Hunger Games is a cross-over series that means a lot more than a sex contract given to an insecure young women by an older man with odd sexual tastes. Evidence of publishing success does not lie with E. L. James but with Suzanne Collins and J.K. Rowling, not to mention Stephen King or Barbara Kingsolver. 

Whether or not we are in the middle of a reading renaissance remains to be seen. Part of this reading renaissance depends on the kind of writing we are consuming. When I told my father I wanted to study contemporary American literature in graduate school, he asked me whether or not I thought any of it was worth studying or reading. He asked if there were any modern masterpieces in the works, if any of them could hold a candle to F. Scott Fitzgerald or John Steinbeck. He seemed to believe that the golden age of American literature had since passed. It’s true that classic authors are influencing contemporary authors less and less (http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog/2012/may/14/writers-no-longer-influenced-by-classics), but that by no means indicates that current writing fails to set a new standard or are classics in the making. Yes, our postmodern (or post-post modern) writing may diverge from the established norms, but today’s writers demonstrate their own style. One can look at the emergence of the prose poem, the lyric essay, flash fiction, and the abundance of free verse and realize that literature with a capital L is still out there, still being written on a daily basis.

I have no facts or figures on how many books are being bought every day and by whom, and I have no clear understanding if losses in publishing houses indicate a decline of reading. However, every day I find more people online who share a passion for reading and writing. Go on twitter and you’ll find thousands upon thousands of people who describe themselves as writers and readers, who tweet about books they’re reading and articles they liked. WordPress features hundreds of blogs dedicated to creative writing, publishing, and books. This core group of people whose love of the written word has not diminished comprise the base of people who are unwilling to let publishing desiccate quietly in a desert of lameness. We are proof that millions of people still read and recommend books to friends. We are evidence that publishing isn’t on the decline but really on the upswing, if only those at the top can find a way to adjust to the electronic age.

Beach books and summer indulgences

For four years, my beach books were not so much fun literary treats as vitamins assigned by my teachers. In order to study Pre-AP or AP English, students had to do a summer reading assignment along with a project or essay as an attempt to weed out students who weren’t willing to do extra work. I did my own reading on the side of course, but my summers were dominated by books like Pride and Prejudice and The Merchant of Venice. (Disturbingly, The Merchant of Venice inspired some vehement anti-Semitic rants among my classmates during class discussion. Then again, I went to school in a conservative Southern town, so maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised.) Not all the titles were bad: The House on Mango Street made me fall in love with Sandra Cisneros and How to Read Literature Like a Professor  introduced me to the idea of intertextuality. All in all, these assignments were burdensome and often boring, such as slogging through Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel. Go into any major bookstore during summertime, and you will find a table labeled “Summer Reading” laden with classic titles that teachers have assigned to their students. If you find the table labeled “Summer Favorites,” you’ll get a dose of those titles publishers roll out just in time for beach season. Although I understood the reasoning for giving summer assignments (separating the wheat from the chaff, getting a head start on assignments since there’s so little time to cram everything in, etc.), I disagreed with this approach because it turned reading into a chore. It made students even more resentful toward reading and literature, because they saw the assignments as an infringement on their summer vacation. We don’t need to give high school students any more excuses than they already have for disliking reading literature.

But fortunately I finished high school, and when summer arrived after my high school graduation, I was free to read whatever I liked–a liberty that felt surprisingly strong and exciting. Rather than having to annotate Sophie’s World hanging over my head for two and a half months, I could read as many murder mysteries as I liked and as much pop culture fiction as I wanted. Granted, I had one small assignment for summer reading for TCU, but it was a tiny booklet with writings on the second amendment that required an accompanying 1,000-word or so essay. And without sounding vain, that was child’s play to me.

The beach book is a big market for those of us not laboring under summer reading assignments. Publishers lay out dozens of summer titles, and magazines and talk shows highlight their favorite choices for summer–fluffy books that require little mental strain while delivering maximum entertainment. These titles are opposed to James Joyce–you can find some other challenging titles at Publisher’s Weekly “The Top 10 Most Difficult Books,” none of which I have read or attempted to read (http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/book-news/tip-sheet/article/53409-the-top-10-most-difficult-books.html). Pick up this book, head to the beach, and relax listening to the waves while reading. But as Amanda Katz points out in her article “You Call That A Beach Book? Really?” (http://www.npr.org/2012/08/08/158220698/you-call-that-a-beach-book-really?), more and more we see less books that are literary candy in the hands of readers on beach towels. Why?

Part of me feels a pressure to read more serious books. When a friend and I were waiting in line to be announced as new Phi Beta Kappa members, I told him sheepishly that I had read The Hunger Games over spring break. He gave me a withering look. Since then, among my English and writing peers and professors, I only admit to reading things like The Fate of the Romanovs and poetry by obscure Polish writers. But that hasn’t diminished my desire to read books like Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, which I’m sure has been ostracized from the high literature pantheon since being handpicked by Oprah, or Tana French’s Broken Harbor, even though Tana French should get some merit for having one the Edgar Allan Poe award for her outstanding first novel, In The Woods.

But enough of me and my secret guilty pleasures of mass market fiction. Maybe we should admire these people who eschew the overwhelming beach book trend and actually read those one or two books they’ve been saving all year. Much as I hate to admit it, I often put aside reading when I want to read because I’m just so busy and overwhelmed. Because my work involves reading and critiquing student writing, and my major is all about reading at least a book a week and writing at least 8-10 pages a week, when I have free time, my brain can’t seem to find reading a pleasurable pastime or escape. So when summer comes, people with normally hectic lives take some time off to finally get around to that pile of books that’s steadily grown over the year or start ticking off some titles on that to-read list that’s only gotten longer. Yes, we all merge on the bestseller list, but there’s nothing wrong with reading those niche books that get shunted to the side for not being in the lowest common denominator. For example, once I get my hands on it, I’ll be reading Coming of Age on Zoloft by Katherine Sharpe then moving on to Alain De Botton’s The Art of Travel.

Unfortunately, before that I’ll have to read some books (13) for my honors thesis such as A Concise History of the French Revolution by Sylvia Neely, The History of White People by Nell Irvin Painter, and The Language of Genes by Steve Jones. There’s a good chance I won’t get to Sharpe or Botton until I graduate in December. Who says I have to read Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl or The Fifty Shades of Gray trilogy? I think we’re all just fine reading what we enjoy. Our lives are filled with reading reports for work and squeezing in that extra hour to catch up on e-mail. When we finally take time to ourselves, we should read those books that interest us and engage us, no matter what books are put before us. Good reading is determined by the individual, not the masses. Reading taste as individualized and varied as musical taste; we should feel free to read what we enjoy, not what’s in vogue.

 

 

Rediscovering the Library

I have a friend who theorizes that you can learn everything you need to know about a person by going through his or her wallet. My wallet needs to be cleaned out, so I think there’s a fairly accurate picture of my life in the folds of my wallet–insurance cards (both health and car), appointment cards for the doctor, punch reward card for that frozen yogurt place by TCU’s campus, old metro card from my last trip to NYC, and two library cards for the Flower Mound and Lewisville Public Libraries. I have had these library cards since before I actually knew how to read at age 4. If you look on the back for the signature, you will find my four-year-old handwriting scribbling out my first name in sprawling letters, with my mother’s neat hand writing out my name underneath.

My family and I have been involved in libraries for as long as I can remember. My mom has volunteered regular at the local library for years, and my brother and I went to reading and story time from the time we could sit still and listen. My childhood memories are filled with snippets of plays, activities, and summer reading challenges. It was in the library that I began to appreciate the power of books, the smell of the pages, the crinkle of the dust covers. My parents bought my brother and I bricks to help pay for the new library when we expanded. I still smile when I stand in front of the library and see my name on a brick almost 15 years old. When I was in high school and active in National Honor Society, I fulfilled my volunteer requirements by helping out with the summer reading program–handing out prizes and dutifully receiving burns from the popcorn machine as I popped popcorn for movie night while filling Dixie cups with lukewarm instant lemonade. I shelved during the school year, cracking my knees as I bent down to straighten the children’s books. I loved these evenings at the library, remembering a favorite book as I sorted the returns on the shelves.

But somehow, for some reason, I have forgotten the library since my high school graduation. I’ve spent most of my book discovery either online or in brick-and-mortar bookstores, agonizing over spending my part-time pay on that paperback that looked so enticing. My thoughts would often go, “It would take three hours of work to pay for this book–is it worth it?” The usual answer was a resounding, “Yes.” But as I’ve decided to move to New York after my graduation in December, I realized I couldn’t keep acquiring books. I needed to save money and space. I’ve sold a large portion of my collection, only keeping those books that have deep sentimental value, are my very favorites, or are gifts from close family and friends, notes inside the covers and on title pages that I can’t bear to part with. Now I realize I can’t buy any new books, not if I want to get to New York without bringing a miniature library with me. But I still have an insatiable desire to read. So where do I go and what do I do? I go to the library.

Yes, the library has its drawbacks. I try not to think about the number of hands and germs that have touched the pages, and I try not to get frustrated when that book I’ve really had my eye on has three hold requests and won’t be available until probably November. But for all the “inconveniences” (read: first-world problems), I was delighted after my first trip to the library this past weekend. I checked out four of my old favorite murder mysteries that I’ve had to sell to create shelf space, and I found four promising nonfiction reads. I’ve already read two and enjoyed them immensely–The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson and Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things by Randy Frost and Gail Steketee. I also went to the TCU library to check out some books for research for my honors thesis–13 books checked out until November. Since I have graduate student status, I could have checked out up to 100 at once if I’d wanted to, a shocking number that I couldn’t really fathom. The fact that over 1 million titles and articles are available at the TCU library is both overwhelming and exciting.

The library is an incredible resource–I can read as many books as I want without paying a dime and without my shelf becoming cluttered and crowded. I’m grateful and blessed that my community has two amazing libraries close by, and the TCU library is so well cared for and so friendly, even if learning the LIbrary of Congress sorting system freaked me out a little my freshman year. Thanks to the library, I can enable my reading habit without going broke and without piles of books on the floor because my shelf space ran out. Library shelves are just as full of promise and excitement as bookstore shelves, and we can all benefit from a trip to our local library.

%d bloggers like this: