Oh, for checking things off to-do lists. :) I'm finally getting around to discussing two books I've read recently: A Gentle Madness by Nicholas Basbanes and How Reading Changed My Life by Anna Quindlen.
The latter is a very short, very light meditation on being a reader. I enjoyed hearing her love of books, but certain things bothered me. First, for only 80 pages, she spends a lot of time whining about literary/books criticism. Secondly, she mentions a couple times that she loves books more than her kids. I find that sentiment slightly repugnant (although, I know I'm not in a position to judge because I don't have children, my current job is nanny to my niece, so I know how exhausting it is to run after an 18 month old all day), but more importantly, I can't believe she'd write that in a public forum. What if her kids read that someday?! So, the sweetness of her obvious obsession with reading was, for me, counterbalanced by these quibbles. People who can look over past this will probably enjoy this: it's like reading a highly polished blog entry, almost.
The former is a tome. Its official page length is 668; however, the actual book ends in the 500s (the rest is notes and an impressive bibliography). Basbanes discusses book collectors (very different from reading lovers), historical in part one, and contemporary (through the 80s) in part two. Each chapter focuses a different book collector, as well as the book collection, however it branches into related topics as well. Some chapters were really, really interesting; others were more skim-worthy. My favourites were his "America, Americans, Americana," which discussed early-American collectors, "Mirror Images" which discussed collectors with eccentric collections that reflected their personalities, "Instant Ivy," which is all about UT Austin (go Longhorns!), and "Obsessed Amateurs," which is self-evident. I loved reading about the children's books collections. :) The book was an uneven one, but I'd recommend it to people who are willing to skim when necessary! For me, the most frustrating part was that most of the collectors were obscenely wealthy; I couldn't relate to them at all. Plus, it wasn't a book about loving books, it was a book about coveting them. I expected something a ltitle different. Nonetheless, I'm glad I read it. I don't want to buy a copy for myself, however.
This turned out to be a much shorter discussion than I expected it to be. I guess that both of my books on books were a disappointment, which limits my desire to discuss them. Do y'all have suggestions for books on books that you've loved?
Edited to add, I guess I was in a negative mood last night. While neither of the books lived up to expectations, they were both enjoyable, average reads. So, don't be turned off by my overly pessimistic view of them: sometimes, we approach a book with such high expectations, it's almost impossible for it to live up to them!