Initially I’d decided to shy away from setting a goal that involved the number of books I was going to read, and instead signed up for a challenge that will change the way I buy books. I’m typically a used book buyer, or, more recently, a library checker-outter. That’s all fine and dandy but as a person who makes a living writing things, I think it’s about time I started supporting authors. And so I have pledged to purchase one new book from a local, independent book store every month this year. I forgot about it in January so last week I headed to Prairie Lights and bought two books.
It was really a challenge because good lord there are some wonderful books to be bought! The first book that caught my eye was Dear Life: Stories by Alice Munro. I’ve been on the wait list at my library for many weeks because I’ve loved her previous work. Runaway is possibly my favorite collection of short stories ever, and you can read my brief review of The Love of a Good Woman here. I did end up picking up Dear Life, but there was an exciting twist; it was signed! I am such a nerd for that kind of thing. I don’t know, the idea that Ms. Munro gripped my copy in her hands, pressed pen to paper, and squiggled her name is just delightful.
Making the second selection was challenging. I am returning to college at the ripe young age of 32 (33 in a few days!) because I want to learn to write fiction where the masters were taught / have taught – and there is no better place than the University of Iowa. Notable alums and/or previous instructors include Kurt Vonnegut, Philip Roth, Flannery O’Connor, Tennessee Williams and tons more – including 16 winners of the Pulitzer Prize! Including two current professors in the program, Marilynne Robinson and James Alan McPherson.
Anyway, sorry to go all fan-girl about it, but I am excited to be an old ass college freshman at this school. The point of all this though is that there is a section at Prairie Lights of books written by writers who went through or taught at the Writer’s Workshop. I was eyeing a ton of books there, but in the end I discovered that there is a book so fantastic that I just couldn’t leave it there.
I am talking about Love and Capital: Karl and Jenny Marx and the Birth of a Revolution. I do love some Socialist literature and I love books that take you behind the scenes of important historical events and really put the players and actions into the context of real people and their real lives. Exciting stuff!
I haven’t started either book yet but I’ll make sure to review them when I get around to them. I also decided that I really do want a numbers goal. So I settled on halving what I read last year and committing to read 50 books. Well, after a few weeks when I was many, many books ahead of schedule I decided to split the difference and shoot for 75. I’m still 3 or 4 books ahead of schedule but at the moment I’m only taking 2 classes. When I start taking 5 classes in the fall, and continuing to write full time, I’m sure I’ll be glad that cushion is there.
All this talk of book-buying has reminded me of a great quote by Philip Roth, which I will leave you with:
“I would browse for half an hour or so in the secondhand bookstores in the neighborhood. Owning my own ‘library’ was my only materialistic ambition; in fact, trying to decide which two of these thousands of books to buy that week, I would frequently get so excited that by the time the purchase was accomplished I had to make use of the bookseller’s toilet facilities. I don’t believe that either microbe or laxative has ever affected me so strongly as the discovery that I was all at once the owner of a slightly soiled copy of Empson’s Seven Types of Ambiguity in the original English edition.”