Petey had a doctor’s appointment the other day. We were waiting in the exam room, and I was reading a library book. When the doctor walked in, she noticed my book, and said, “I love seeing people reading an actual, physical book.”And, that’s the point of the piece this week: old school books.
It all starts with where you get them. I am operating under the assumption that you have a library card and are a frequent visitor. If not, please don’t tell me, I don’t want to know. Just go, right now, I beg you, and get yourself a card.
Bookstores, both new and used. If you don’t already patronize them, I strongly encourage finding a few independent booksellers of both types and making them your first resource.
Booksellers love to talk to readers. And, they’re experts at recommending books you’ll like, based on the kinds of things you’ve read.
My favorite job (except for writing) was bookseller. I worked for my friend, Bosco. Bosco was a former English teacher and had a slightly dented sense of humor, just like me. We laughed for the better part of each day. But what I appreciate most was he elevated my reading.
Since learning to read, I’ve been the kind of reader that got nervous if there was nothing on deck for when I finished my current book. But Bosco introduced me to better writers, which maybe, in turn, made me a better writer.
So, to honor my book Yoda, Bosco, I’d like to recommend a few books that are a little more challenging than Danielle Steele or James Patterson, but still really entertaining.A Confederacy of Dunces, by James Kennedy Toole. The story of the book’s publication is almost as compelling as the plot of the novel itself. Eleven years before the book was published, the author committed suicide in part because of his inability to interest any publishers in his life’s work. After his death his mother found a copy of the manuscript and made it her mission to introduce her son’s book to the world. It was finally published by LSU Press in 1980 and won the Pulitzer Prize.The story is about Ignatius Jacques Reilly, a clueless babe in the woods, and his misadventures in his home of New Orleans. It’s funny, and touching, and the easiest Pulitzer winner you’ll ever read.
A Prayer For Owen Meany, by John Irving. It’s the story of an unusual young man who’s convinced he was born for a special purpose, and every step of his life is in furtherance of his mission. I love this book because Irving is a genius of character construction. No matter in what position characters find themselves, it’s believable, because they are believable. A movie, Simon Burch was made that is loosely based on Owen Meany. Don’t be tempted, it’s dreadful.
I am Charlotte Simmons, by Tom Wolfe. Tom Wolfe has the unique ability to make me angry but keep me coming back for his next one. Charlotte Simmons is the novel that resulted from deep, lengthy, talked about research into Duke’s basketball program. It’s also fascinating, and hard to put down. The ending as written would have been a happy ending written by any other author. Filtered through Wolfe’s lens, it becomes a tragedy. The book also gave the world the terms, Sarc 1, 2, and 3. If you’re on vacation, stuck in a car, or hiding from the heat, pick up a book that you might not normally try—maybe one of these. And if it stinks, go talk to a bookseller. Preferably one of the independent persuasion. Or, go to the library; they’re cool, and librarians adore talking books, too.
Thanks for your time.