Sunday, February 26, 2017

So Many Books, So Little Time

This is going to be another double treat blog. At least I think of it that way.

I was reading So Many Books, So Little Time, A Year of Passionate Reading by Sara Nelson and was making notes since I thought it was interesting enough to blog about. I even decided to use the title for this blog.

However, before finishing it, I found My Ideal Bookshelf at the library and peaked inside. I knew immediately that I had to write about this also. The subjects were so similar they could be combined into one blog.

My Ideal Bookshelf was edited by Thessaly La Force with art by Jane Mount. It was published in 2012 by Little, Brown and Company.

I haven’t finished it yet, but have read enough to recommend it to people who like to read. It is fun to see what other people read, why and what they have enjoyed the most; especially if you are nosy (excuse me – curious) like me.

This is not just a list of books. Each of the contributors comments briefly on why they chose these books for their ideal small book shelf.

Contributors included many writers, but also artists, chefs, fashion designers, entrepreneurs, humorists, producers, architects, dancers, illustrators, doctors, musicians, photographers, singers, app designers and many others. They are in alphabetical order, so it is easy to find people who interest you if you don’t want to read them all.

I skipped most chefs since I am not too interested in cooking at this time. As the book says, our tastes in what we read changes often depending on what is happening in our life.

LaForce stressed that this is just a snapshot of the person, a moment in time. What someone choose in the future could be very different than what they choose today.

In So Many Books, So Little Time, author Sara Nelson stressed that she wasn’t going to write 52 book reviews, but was trying to get on paper what she had been doing in her mind, matching up the reading experience with the personal one.

Her book reminded me of a blog I wrote in March of 2015 about Tolstoy and the Purple Chair, My Year of Magical Reading by Tina Sankovitch. For 365 days, she read, often until late at night as a way to overcome her grief. The project and published book were in memory of her sister Anne-Marie Sankovitch. It was published in 2011 by Harper Collins Publishers.

Both books are similar in that the authors share their love of reading and their personal feelings about the books they read, but both are very different.

My attention was captured by a sentence in the chapter Great Expectation, when Nelson said, “I’ve already decided to take one biggest book instead of the usual three or four I often pack as insurance against being caught – can you imagine? – with nothing to read.”

She chose a book to take on vacation to a lodge in Cavendish, Vermont. Not a normal lodge, this was the compound where Nobel Prize winning author Alexander Solzhenitsyn and his family had lived. Once there, Nelson found the humorous book she was reading no longer seemed appropriate. There she found Solzhenitsyn – Soul in Exile, which became her first book for this project.

Discussing by Anne LaMotte she said, “Bird by Bird is without a doubt the single best self-help guide I’ve ever read,” calling it funny and wise.

Reading this book, she felt she was in the presence of somebody who knew what she was feeling every time she sat down to write.

Bird by Bird was a book about “what it’s like to be stuck and how to get unstuck.”

I read this book years ago and it is still one of my favorites and is on my bookshelf.

There are many other books and authors I enjoyed reading about in this book, but I will let those interested make their own discoveries.

So Many Books, So Little Time was published in 2003 by G. P. Putnam & Sons. Sara Nelson is an editor, reviewer, wife, mother and a self-admitted compulsive reader.

Nelson said her goal in 2002 was to chronicle a year’s worth of reading, “to explore how the world of books and words intermingled with children, marriage, friends, and the rest of the ‘real’ world.” I found the book and the books she mentioned thought-provoking.

Both books provide insight into why we like certain books we read and dislike others, plus give us ideas about other books we might want to read. I’ve added quite a few to my reading list, agreeing with Nelson that there are so many books and so little time to read them.


  1. Interesting article, Jo - thanks. I've downloaded a sample of the Anne Lamott on your recommendation.

  2. Thanks Anne. I hope you enjoy it.


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