Monday, March 14, 2022

Pssst...Got a Book?

 Q: Banning books - currently in the news again - is the most extreme way to influence others’ reading habits. On a more positive note: what books do you put in your guest bedroom? Buy as presents? Press into strangers’ hands in bookshops? Leave in little free libraries? 

-from Susan

It must be pointed out that the futility of banning books is a given. There is nothing more likely to increase interest, sales, and sharing among readers books like LADY CHATTERLEY’S LOVER, ULYSSES, or I NEED A NEW BUTT (Dawn McMillan) than having some pursed mouth, sanctimonious someone decide it needs to be cast out of sight. 

I sometimes wish I had more guests because I love to fuss over them. But I do have a guest bedroom and anyone who stays can browse the eight foot long, four foot high, often two deep bookcase in there, although it has very little fiction, mostly classics. This room’s library is dedicated to history, science, biography, philosophy, different cultures, poetry, and travel. Let’s say, though, that a guest wanted something lighter, not to put her to sleep but something more cheerful than, say, the history of the Silk Road countries. In that case, I’d start with THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY (Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows), one of the Maisie Dobbs mysteries (Jacqueline Winspear), and LOVE & DEATH IN BURGUNDY (me). 

Around here, we give lots and lots of books as presents. It’s a standing joke in my family that as they pick up one gift-wrapped, solid rectangle after another from under the Christmas tree, they hold it up, shake it, and say, “I wonder what this is?” Everyone reads, so the types of books vary according to their passions. The newest Kim Stanley Robinson sci-fi, which seems only a step ahead of reality for one. Environmental issues for another. Futurist thinking, urban design, novels with diverse and infrequently heard voices, natural history, regional cooking, breadmaking, and unexplored cuisines. I’ve given all of Ed Lin’s Taiwan night market crime fiction books as presents, the last of that series being 99 WAYS TO DIE.  (Great fun – recommended.)

It feels too bossy to stalk strangers browsing in bookstores, but I recently said in a low voice to someone holding a copy that Cara Black’s newest release, MURDER AT THE PORTE DE VERSAILLES, was bound to be good. Since she had just come from the same talk by Cara that I had, she gave me a look that I translated as, “Duh.” My preferred approach is to say in a bright voice and with a big smile, ”Oh, I have that too. It’s great!” (I say that about all of your books, Minds, when I see anyone contemplating them.)

We used to have two little free libraries on our street. Now we only have one and it seems to be curated toward the kinds of books the pursed mouth, would-be censor would approve of, with more than a reasonable helping of books that promise religious satisfaction, quick riches, increased self-confidence, and cleaner closets. I was thinking of putting ULYSSES in there just to see what happens….





Catriona McPherson said...

How wonderful, Susan. I need to buy some Ed Lin asap. The LFL I walked past on Saturday has Anna Katherine Green in it!

Susan C Shea said...

Catriona, I've heard of her but never read one of her books. Is there one you recommend? (BTW I am greedily perusing Persephone's latest newsletter!)