on reading

today, i am going to do a little piece on how to read. in my job, it is advantageous to read often and as much as can be managed, so that when people ask if you've read this book or heard of that author, you can give them a satisfying answer. one of my favorite things is suggesting books to people, but never more than when i have read it and can personally attest to its goodness. of course, this is not always the case. luckily, i work with smart people whose literary knowledge rubs off on me, and normally i can come off as a well-read bookgirl.

anyway, i was thinking about my reading style this morning, because i just finished nicole krauss's brilliant novel, the history of love, and today i realized i don't yet know what i really think of it. sometimes it takes a few days for a story to really sink in, so perhaps that is why i feel adrift in the sea of meaning. i have noticed lately that when i finish a book, the feeling i normally have is not, "what a fulfilling reading experience that was!" no no... my reaction is more along the lines of, "oh good, another book to add to my 'read' pile." the result is that a lot of times i feel i need to reread things. i already want to reread the history of love, partly because it is a beautiful story and partly because i want to fully grasp its greatness.

and so, upon reflection, how-to-read tip #1 is: when you are reading a book you enjoy, savor it. let the language get into your head and follow it wherever it goes. i guess patience plays a big role here... in which case i should add that if you read like me, and need a few days to digest what you've just taken in, that's just fine. and always take the opportunity to talk to people about what they've been reading, because that's often a very helpful way to sort out your own sense of a story.

of course, another thing i struggle with is finding the right words with which to express how i felt about a story. eloquence is a quality that i cherish and do not quite yet have. (to that end, i am reading poetry books... which i highly recommend.) but we'll come back to this another day. for now, i'll leave you with a few books that, after a few days' worth of mulling over, i loved and still think about.

  • the anthologist by nicholson baker: a novel full of beautiful phrases and poetry, narrated by a poet whose mind wanders and reveals his endearing takes on romance, poetic meter, and his neighbors. one of my all-time favorite books.
  • a transatlantic love affair by simone de beauvoir: the letters between de beauvoir and nelson algren, the chicago author, during their 10+ -year love affair across the ocean.
  • special topics in calamity physics by marisha pessl: elegantly written, a twisted story made up of characters who are more intricately linked than they could have imagined, yet are not necessarily who they seem to be.
these are all highly recommended by me, your resident bookgirl. please read them! you shan't regret it. (these haven't gone on my little bookmas guides, but all of them would make stupendous presents, too!) cheers, wednesday.