Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Bookworms like me can ramble about books forever

I like books. Not only do I like books, I like to buy books. Part of me feels guilty, thinks that I should save my money, go to the library more often. But I like to own books, to read them, keep them, put them on my own bookshelf so I can reread them later—I do read most novels at least twice. My love of book shopping can be something of a problem. When The Husband and I moved across the country we boxed up our books and mailed them to our new address, so they wouldn’t take up room in the trailer we had hitched to the back of the car. Eight Kinko’s boxes (my sister worked there at the time) arrived at the new apartment a couple of days after we did. Since then, we have bought two more six-foot book cases. I bought a lot of books during grad school, most of which I didn’t sell back at the end of each semester, and once I graduated I began spending money on novels. Mostly I would spend time browsing around used bookstores, where I always seem to spend $20, no matter how many books I buy. But I also purchase from Amazon. Spend $9.48 more and get free shipping? Sure, why not. So during our most recent move, we packed up even more boxes of books, and moved them down the street to our new apartment.

On Sunday, I bought a new book. I was in the Seattle airport, browsing around Borders even though I had two unread books in my bag, because I had a lot of time to kill before my flight, because I knew I would be sitting long enough during the course of the day, and because I can’t resist even an airport bookstore. As I had wandered through Elliott Bay Book Company on Friday afternoon, I had resisted the impulse to buy several interesting books, telling myself that I didn’t need the extra weight in my backpack, that I could easily get the books when I returned to Washington. But now, with the prospect of 8 hours of travel ahead of me, my defenses were down. I tried to recall the books I’d been interested in. The last name of one of the authors had started Ch, I thought, and wandered down to the Cs.

I didn’t find the book, but one name jumped out at me on the third shelf from the floor: Justin Cronin. I knew his name. I had read something by him before. I picked up the book, The Summer Guest. The cover declared him the author of Mary and O’Neill. I looked back down at the shelf, but that book wasn’t there. But that was the book I’d read. I had seen it recommended somewhere, probably the Booksense newsletter, back when I lived in California. I had checked in out of the UCSC library, read it, loved it, and forgotten the name. But I hadn’t forgotten the book. It is a novel told in stories that could stand alone. I remember some of the stories clearly, and I remember a description of snow that seemed perfect to me. I’ve thought about the book several times in the four years or so since I read it, but I always got stuck trying to remember the title or the author.

And so I bought the book and headed back to my gate. I stood in line to board the plane, reading the first few pages, totally hooked. I read the book all the way from Seattle to Phoenix. I read as my second flight took off from Phoenix and as the pilot turned the plane around half an hour later due to mechanical difficulties that were sending us back to the airport to board a different plane. I finished the book sometime just after we passed over Kansas City. I teared up a little, as I often due at the end of books, sad or not, and hoped the man beside me wouldn’t notice.

It was the perfect way to read a book. Well almost—I could have done without the mechanical difficulties, the turbulence that left my tummy upset, the leg cramps, and the lousy customer service of the airline I had chosen. The perfect way would have been to spend an entire day snuggled up with my cat, with good orange juice or ice cream available when I needed a snack, reading the book straight through (which is actually how I read the most recent Harry Potter book). Still, to sit down and read a book all at once, even on a plane, is one of my favorite things. Most of my reading is done on public transit as I travel to and from work. I am happy for the time to read, but the reading isn’t as pleasurable that way—too much stopping and starting, too many distractions. Sometimes I want to stretch a book out, put off finishing it so that I can enjoy it longer, but patience is not one of my virtues, and I find it much more satisfying to read a book from cover to cover. To finish it in a public place isn’t ideal, but it was an airplane at least. I hate reaching the last pages of a book on the bus or train on my way home from work is so much less fun, and I try to race through the pages so I can finish before I read my stop, or interrupt myself every paragraph to glance up to see where I am, which takes away from the pleasure of reading.

I started Isabel Allende’s Portrait in Sepia on Monday, and I haven’t gotten very far at all, because I’ve been reading on public transit, and since it’s cooled off a bit here in DC, I’ve been walking from the metro to the office, rather than taking the bus. I gain exercise, but lose some valuable reading time.


Brian said...

I had no idea I was being called The Husband. As the british would say, capital!

ann said...

That entry so made me want to curl up with a book.

Which I think I might do right now :)

Christie Grabyan said...

I figured The Husband was a longstanding title. Maybe you don't realize how long she's actually been using it, eh? Also, Liz, may I venture to guess that you were flying on America West?

Elizabeth said...

How did you know? Is it because I mentioned flying through Phoenix? Or have you had crappy experiences with them, too? It seems like everyone I've mentioned this to has known that America West was evil. How come I wasn't notified in advance?