Tuesday, June 04, 2013

So Many Books, So Little Time OR Pfft!

I should've really liked So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading by Sara Nelson, so I'm left wondering why it only struck me as "meh."

Sara Nelson is the former Editor-in-Chief of Publishers Weekly, and it's my understanding she's currently the Editorial Director at Amazon.com. Oh, and she worked for Oprah for a bit.

In short, she knows books! 

This is a collection of essays based on her goal of reading 52 books in a year's time -- a goal many of us can relate to. So why wasn't I bowled over by her experience? 

I found a number of the essays entertaining, and I felt that I meshed with Nelson on many of the issues she pondered in the book. Things like whether or not to loan books to friends and the pressure that comes along with those recommendations (Will she like it? Will she still like me???). How to pick the perfect book for a trip and the seemingly inevitable outcome that the book you picked doesn't fit your mood once you arrive at your destination.

While I found Nelson's book highly relatable, I also found it unremarkable. I got slightly annoyed at her tendency to drop names. This is totally expected given her elevated positions within the book industry, but it still got annoying. Not to mention the eleventy-gazillion times she mentioned her husband's work at Saturday Night Live. I get it. You're important. 

This book has also fallen victim to the passage of time in many ways. There aren't many bookish topics Nelson discussed in her essays that I haven't seen -- or written about myself -- on a blog. This speaks to the universal nature of readers and the reading life, but it brought to my attention the fact that I prefer my books-about-books to be a little more niche and a little less general. I've done general. I've lived general. 

Sadly, this one just didn't do it for me, but there are plenty of other books-about-books to explore, and you better believe I'll get to them sooner than later. Just as soon as the mood strikes. 


Pub. Date: October 2003 
Publisher: Putnam Adult
Format: Hardcover
ISBN-13: 978-0399150838
Source: Library!

37 comments:

  1. I have this one on my WishList...but the name-dropping thing will get on my nerves as well. That's not what I'd be reading this book for :/

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    1. Patti, same here. Her recreational reading ties in so closely with her work, I think it was probably unavoidable. But yeah, bugged a bit.

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  2. Womp womp. She sounds like a super smart woman who knows books, but that doesn't mean she's a good writer! Good for her for trying, though!

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    1. LOL, I think you're right, Rebecca. Books like Tolstoy and the Purple Chair and My Reading Life definitely made me feeeeel more in regards to the reading experience.

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  3. "I get it. You're important." Ha! I know I've read this. I think I even own it? I don't remember much about it...I guess that says it all right there ;)

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    1. Jennifer, I started not to type that, but I really couldn't help myself! And yes, it was quite forgettable. It was hell writing this review because I was thinking, "Ummm, what did happen?"

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  4. Eh, sounds like a sleeper. Is it weird that I hoard books-about-books (and others gift them to me, too), but I have yet to read a single one? I chalk some of that up to being enmeshed in our bookish community here, like you said... we blog on so many book-related topics, it would be hard to break new ground in a memoir that isn't very niche. Thanks for the heads-up on this one!

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    1. Meg, the more niche books really are enjoyable. Or even writers who have a clearer point of view and better skills (Ack! I said it!) like Pat Conroy.

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  5. Good review. What did you think of her going back and forth between talking about books and her family? I didn't mind it too much but there were times I wished she talked about books more. I think the only time any author should drop names is if that celebrity is their best friend and is always over. ;-)

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    1. I didn't mind the back and forth between books and her family. I typically like literary essays that are structured that way. But yes, sometimes I wanted more BOOK. Or at least to come back to books in a really significant/solid way. And amen to that! re: celebs. lol

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  6. Yes. I was definitely meh about it too. Glad I didn't tell you!

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    1. LOL, I'm glad you didn't tell me either.

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  7. I hadn't heard of this one before, though it did remind me of one that came out a couple of years ago, I forget what it was called but maybe you know it? I saw a few reviews on blogs and they all pretty much said the same thing, that they didn't like the author's superior attitude or her dismissive one towards non-literary books etc. (ring any bells? It's really bugging me that I can't think what it's called!)

    This is the kind of book that, had I seen it in a shop, I would've picked up and maybe bought, so I'm glad to have read your review. The things that bothered you would definitely bother me too. Did you read Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading? It sounds like your kind of book! I started it at the beginning of the year but it was so sad I couldn't read it in winter, but I plan to go back to it. She seems to have a more honest, open, enthusiastic love for whatever she reads, and she doesn't come across as superior or anything. I really really loved Francine Pascal's Reading Like a Writer, which renewed my love of books and got me excited about older books and classics I'd never read.

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    1. Shannon, it doesn't ring any bells, but I'm quite forgetful lately, so pardon me! Ack! I did read Tolstoy and the Purple Chair, and I loooooved it. She is definitely more enthusiastic about books all around. Her passion really comes off the page amidst the hearbreak of her family situation. I started Reading Like a Writer, but I need to get back to it.

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  8. So, to try to be cool, there was a lot of name-dropping of actual people? That alone is enough to keep me away... I can play cool all by myself :P

    Thanks for a great review, Andi!

    Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews

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    1. I don't know if she was actually trying to be cool or if she's just so thoroughly entrenched in the book world that she can't help it. But I cared far less about who her friends/colleagues were and far more about the books. I wanted her to be more passionate about books, in fact.

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  9. The name dropping would annoy me after a while too.

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  10. I felt the same about this book. I wanted to love it but I just didn't. oh, and her whole thing about books it's ok to read in public and books it isn't just got me a bit crazy.

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    1. YES YES YES! I was trying to remember the things that annoyed me, and I found the whole thing quite forgettable so I was coming up short. That part REALLY annoyed me.

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  11. OK, so what are some books about books that you liked because they're less general? Specifics, please!!!!

    I hate name-dropping. And, I have a copy of this book but haven't read it. Maybe a good one to just weed out. It sounds like kind of a waste of time, to be honest. As you said, we've all read similar on blogs, now that there are so many of us talking about our book experiences.

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    1. LOL, Tolstoy and the Purple Chair comes to mind. It has a specific bent, but it involves cancer and her sister's death, so I would avoid that one.

      However, Pat Conroy's My Reading Life is lovely and it has less to do with the day-to-day and more to do with reflecting on particular episodes in his life. And he's got mad writing skills, so it's just better all-around.

      The Reading Promise, by Alice Ozma, also comes to mind. I haven't read it yet, but it's all about a "reading project" with her father and how it impacted her.

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  12. Awww. Too bad. I read it long, long ago, and maybe that helped.

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    1. Yeah, for me I think it really was an issue of being dated, and I've read so many other books about books that seemed much more profound.

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  13. I read it a while back and don't remember much about it. I think that I own a copy of it. Good point about it being really general.

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    1. Thanks, Dana! I'm already finding I don't remember much about. Oh well!

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  14. Like Bookfool, I'd like to know some books about books you've enjoyed? Because it's hard for me to imagine that type of book /not/ being general? (But I'd be thrilled to read one that's really fantastic!)

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    1. Here you go, Monika. I'm being totally lazy and recycling my answer I gave to Bookfool. lol

      Tolstoy and the Purple Chair comes to mind. It has a specific bent, but it involves cancer and her sister's death.

      However, Pat Conroy's My Reading Life is lovely and it has less to do with the day-to-day and more to do with reflecting on particular episodes in his life. And he's got mad writing skills, so it's just better all-around.

      The Reading Promise, by Alice Ozma, also comes to mind. I haven't read it yet, but it's all about a "reading project" with her father and how it impacted her.

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  15. Books about books can be so hit or miss. I think it has something to do with the fact that they are writing about something that we all know well. Unless they manage to really bring new life to it or at least articulate the experience really well, it's sort of boring!

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    1. I usually have pretty good luck with them, but there's the occasional stinker. But yes, I know what you mean. We're so saturated with books and book talk, it needs to be something special!

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  16. I read this one about the time it came out and really enjoyed it, especially the more personal aspects about the author's life, including her battle with breast cancer. I wasn't blogging yet when I read the book, didn't know blogs existed, and so the topics in this book were new and fresh to me--and ones I could definitely relate to. I imagine if I read it now, I probably would feel the same way you did reading it.

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    1. Isn't it pathetic that I don't even remember this portion of the book re: breast cancer. I feel like a horrible person/reader, but overall the book just didn't resonate with me. That makes me sad and sort of worried about my memory. :-/

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  17. Huh. I've not read this, but given your description, I'm not really sure I want to. Name dropping bugs me perhaps more than it bugs the average person. (Because I am judgy and MEAN)

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  18. This is one book I've not heard too many glowing reviews about yet I still want to read it because it's about books! I feel like I should but like you said, I think we get this sort of stuff from all the wonderful book blogs we visit. We all deal with these things (except for the name-dropping I guess- ha) so maybe that's why it doesn't resonate as much?

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  19. I had a professor one time who name dropped and it drove me BANANAS! (He kept referring to Margaret Atwood as "Maggie" as if they were long lost relatives.)

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  20. The story of my life: So many books, so little time :)

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  21. I have found that the very meta genre of books about books is gaining a lot of traction. And I love the idea of it. Obviously I love reading and talking about books or I wouldn't be venturing into the world of book blogging. But I find that the only way that this works is if you can relate to the person who is writing. And when you can't, it doesn't really work out all that well. I'm sorry that this one fell a bit flat for you but I'm sure that there are a lot of other books in this genre that you'll discover you love.

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