theshelfI finally finished Cloud Atlas -- and I didn't just like it as I'd hoped: I loved it.  As I started the last section of the book, I went to the library to pick up my next book, and it wasn't on the hold shelf waiting for me --but I glanced down at the new releases and saw The Shelf: Adventures in Extreme Reading.  I thought it might tide me over between books, but I was hooked in just a few pages. Author Phyllis Rose set out to read all the books (or nearly all) on a particular shelf in a library on the Upper East Side.  She had rules for choosing which shelf (male & female writers, at least one classic she hadn't read before, no one author overwhelming the titles on the shelf, etc.) and rules for what she had to actually read (no more than three titles by any one author).  An experiment in reading, with parameters -- what's not to love? I think my favorite part about the book so far (I'm four ponderous chapters in) is all the extraneous research that Rose does to embellish her own opinions.  I love that she has the curiosity to seek out context for the books she's reading, and the humility to write about more than her own impressions (though these are plenty thoughtful, too, and raise questions I will dwell on long after I finish the book). In reading any memoir, it's easy to slip from bystander to confidant.  I have been reading this book and admiring the author's intellect and education, with more than a little envy.  Until I read an interview with her (because I guess I like a little research too), in which she confesses no book has ever brought her to tears.  That simple statement brought her back down to earth for me: she can write with allusions left and right (a skill I am always jealous of), but I can live another life in reading so thoroughly that I am brought to tears again and again. What are you reading?  Are you going to share with me for the Summer Reading Program?  Get the details here and send your reading list August 15th-31st.
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5 Responses to Wednesday Book Club: The Shelf.

  1. Susan says:

    I’m working on my summer reading! So far I’ve read The Outermost House, The Goldfinch, The Secret Life of Lobsters, Fun House (graphic novel) and next up is a biography of Rachel Carson. I’ve got a bunch more queued up.

    • gina says:

      I have started The Goldfinch on audio twice, but have to be in the right frame of mind for that to work. Summer may not be the time for that endeavor!

  2. Martha says:

    I will try this on, thanks Gina! I read Rose’s Parallel Lives: Five Victorian Marriages in grad school and loved it. You might like that one too.

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