Good Reading : February 2007
FEBRUARY 2007 ı goodreading 15 author profile that being a librarian is one of the bes and noblest, careers that anyone could have.’ I asked her why she thought tha ‘I think that librarians perform mi cles in people’s lives,’ she replied firmly ‘I think that it goes far beyond helpin them find the right answers to particu lar questions, or practical things. What librarians can do is show people the range of what’s available: the range of literature, the range of life. The choice bewildering, and the more books that published every year, the harder it get Nevertheless, she does worry sligh about recommending books. ‘I am so torn on this question of what a good book is, or whether we as librarians o teachers or literary people should try be pushing readers into “better” book she admits. ‘It would be very sad to go through life never having read Jane Austen, but on the other hand, what about some of the classics of British novels such as Pamela – why do peopl need to read those now?’ I ventured the opinion that a good book is one that you’ve enjoyed readi which led us on to Nancy Pearl’s rule of thumb: ‘Whatever book you like is good book for you. And you meet boo at the right time in your life if you lik them.You’re ready for them.’ And if you’re not enjoying a book, stop reading it! ‘We put such pressure on ourselves many of us, because we feel, well, if w start a book and don’t like it, we have finish it because it means there’s some thing wrong with us,’ she said. ‘I try to tell people that, if you don’t like a boo what that means, at that moment, is the book just isn’t right for you.’ Her advice is to give a book fifty pages if you’re under fifty years of age; if you’re not into it by that stage, give it up. Life’s too short. If you’re over fifty – which is when life starts to get even shorter – subtract your age from a hundred to get the number of pages you should read before deciding. ‘No one should ever finish a book that they are not enjoying, no matter how popular or well-reviewed the book is.’ She’s living proof that books and libraries are not intrinsically dull – a y widespread perception among the pulace at large (though not, of course, ong gr readers!). ‘I go to things like tary Clubs, and people always think, , a librarian, it’s bound to be a dull ! That stereotype. Then when I give talk people are just so amazed that an be humorous, or that you can roach books in a non-stuffy way.’ One of the great ways she’s turning t perception, that stereotype, around is ough the Nancy Pearl action figure. ‘It ually came about as a result of a dinner ty,’ she told me. ‘One of the guests the owner of a company called coutrements, which makes a series action figures including Shakespeare, ud, Jesus, Moses – and he was telling hat people were writing to him tell- him that Jesus the action figure was forming miracles in their life, it was ling them. And so I said, “But Mark, people who really perfor m miracles ry day are librarians!” And somebody said, “Oh Mark, you ought to do librarian action figure!” And we all ughed. I mean, it was so oxymoron- h: who could imagine a librarian on figure! Somebody else said, “And ncy should be the model for it!” Then conversation changed. As we were ving home that night my husband d, “Nancy, would you really want to the model for this five-inch plastic ure?” And I said, “Oh, Joe, don’t even nk about it! It will never happen!” en a year later the owner called and ed if I could come to their office and digitised! And the rest is history!’ The resulting doll was Nancy in a e outfit, holding a tiny copy of Book t next to a stack of random literature. ne of the things that’s very important me is that there’s not enough laughter he world, and that we need to be e to not take ourselves so seriously,’ said Nancy. ‘Libraries, for whatever reasons, have always had a very stuffy image. People feel that you have to be very serious, and that a library is a place where you can’t laugh, for example.’ Now there’s a brand-new deluxe version of the action figure. It has, Nancy said, ‘a little reference desk and a computer, and a bunch of books and a book truck – like a little diorama. And the librarian action figure is now in red!’ Another of Nancy’s innovative ways to get people to read is the ‘One city, one book’ idea. She explained how it Her advice is to give a book fifty pages if you’re under fifty years of age; if you’re not into it by that stage, give it up. If you’re over fifty, subtract your age from a hundred to get the number of pages you should read before deciding.
December / January 2007