Good Reading : February 2007
16 goodreading ı FEBRUARY 2007 came about: ‘Originally, the Center for the Book at the Seattle Public Library got a grant to develop a program to build new audiences for literature. This was way back in 1998. One of the things I think libraries can do to make the world a better place is to support book groups that meet in the library; that bring strangers together to talk about a work of literature. I think that that’s a wonderful way of building community in a diverse and rapidly dichotomous society. And secondly, libraries can help people find books beyond the bestsellers, and to find books that may not be current – remembering that any book that somebody hasn’t read is a new book to them. ‘When we began the program [origi- nally called ‘If all of Seattle read the same book’] one of the goals was not to do books that were on high school or college reading lists, or not to do one of the ‘Hundred Best Novels of the Century’. But instead to focus on hidden treasures that will help people think about humanity in a different way, or to focus on the shared experiences we have no matter what our outer circumstances are.’ The first book chosen was ‘a wonderful novel by Russell Banks called The Sweet Hereafter.’ I confessed that I had seen the film but not read the book. ‘The film was very close to the book, but I have to say the book was much better,’ Nancy assured me. ‘It would have been, if it were after September 11 and the terrorist bombing, a really good book then too because it’s about grief, how you process it. But even in 1998 it was just a great book because it appeals equally to men and women, and because it’s so interesting stylistically – in the book [the story] is told from four different points of view.’ Nancy’s enthusiasm for books and reading is infectious, but she has the following caveat in her introduction to More Book Lust: ‘Because of all the time I spend devoted to reading, here are some things that I perforce have given up: gardening, cooking, Rollerblading, clean- ing house.’ I think it’s a shame about the gardening and the Rollerblading, but you can keep the other two. Said Nancy: ‘People always say, “How can you read so much?” And what I say is that, at every point in our day, we make a choice.You could go for a walk in the morning or you could sit down and read.’ She began compiling Book Lust ‘Because of all the time I spend devoted to reading, here are some things that I perforce have given up: gardening, cooking, Rollerblading, cleaning house.’ author profile The first Nancy Pearl action figure, with a miniature copy of Book Lust, came about because of a dinner party conversation. because, as a librarian, she was used to making lists of books for people, sum- ming up each one in a sentence or two. ‘No one thought there would be a second book, so I really had to just focus in on what were my absolute favourites in each one of the categories,’ she explained. ‘And basically, what I would do is look at the books on my shelves, take out one of my favourites, and try to think of a quirky category that it would fit into! One of the problems, when it was all done, was that I started realising how many books and authors I had left out by mistake, it was just horrifying!’ Even with the thousands of books she recommends, I found myself making a list of omissions – something, I’m sure, many of her readers do. Nancy laughed. ‘One of the best things that happened to me in Sydney is that I was walking down George Street back to my hotel, enjoying looking at the water and the harbour, and this woman grabbed my ar m and said, “Are you Nancy Pearl?” I said, “Yes I am”, and she said, “Well, you left William Maxwell out!” And I thought, She’s right! I did leave William Maxwell out! Suddenly all his book titles came into my head!’ Hence More Book Lust. Will there be a third book in the adult series? ‘I think if I do another it’ll be Travel Lust – not just travel guides but books about places, and under those quirky categories. That’s in the back of my mind,’ she replied. Meanwhile, she is enjoying life as a celebrated author. Nancy Pearl retired from the Washington Center for the Book, the literary programming ar m of Seattle Public Library, in 2004. She now teaches a class every quarter at the library school of the University of Washington, but mainly, she said delightedly, ‘what I’ve been doing these past two years is travelling and talking about books and reading’. Last year a cruise ship line asked her to be one of their guest speakers, and said she could choose any cruise she wanted. She chose the cruise to New Zealand and Australia, because she loved her time in Sydney in 2005 so much. She had to give four forty-five minute talks, on any subject of her choice. She chose: her best reads of 2006; some of her favourite Australian and New Zealand writers; a talk on keeping your book club happy and healthy; and a talk entitled ‘The Pleasures and Perils of a Life of Reading’. Clearly, Nancy Pearl is having a ball. ‘I am having a fabulous time! Who could be better to meet than readers?’ Book Lust and More Book Lust are published by Sasquatch Books and distributed by Bookwise Inter national, rrp $28.95 each.
December / January 2007