I am not quite sure how many books we own. One thousand? Two thousand? We have a lot of books.
Naturally, we could not have accumulated this quantity if we had not traded our gypsy mode of life for a house with bookshelves. “Are you professors?” the movers asked as they lugged in the boxes of books.
It’s only when you have a mudroom, a study, an attic, and an extra bedroom that you can finally hoard books. I stopped weeding our books this weekend when I realized, “We have all this stuff because we’re adults!”
No, we haven’t read them all, but we get around to them eventually. In August, I finally read the Spanish novel Nada, by Carmen Laforet, which was published in 1944 and reissued in 2007 by Modern Library in Edith Grossman’s translation. This coming-of-age novel, set in post-Civil War Spain, is narrated by a college student who moves into her grandmother’s apartment in Barcelona. The household also includes the narrator’s controlling Catholic aunt, two uncles, both painters, and one of their wives, a gambler, all slowly starving in poverty. My husband asked me where I got this book: I laughed because I gave it to him for Christmas in 2007, after Jonathan Yardley praised it in the Washington Post.
What should I read in September? Since I managed to read 11 new books this summer (only one stinker in the lot), I’m thinking I should continue to mix new books with classics and old books. But do I have room for any more on the shelves?
Here are two very short lists: What I’d Like to Read in September, and What I’d Prefer Not to.
What I’d Like to Read in September
The Long Call, by Ann Cleeves. Marily Stasio recommended this gripping mystery in her column in The New York Times. I picked up a copy and, honestly, I can hardly put it down. More later.
What We Talk About When We Talk About Books, by Leah Price. This sounds like my kind of book: Leah Price, a professor of literature, explores the history of books, the future of reading, and even examines the marginalia in old library books.
Quichotte, by Salman Rushdie. Longlisted for the Booker Prize, this modern-day Don Quixote is set in America. I loved Rushdie’s Booker Prize-winning Midnight’s Children, and I have a vague notion I should read Quichotte along with Cervantes’ classic, which I read half of decades ago.
What I’d Prefer Not to Read in September
The Testaments by Margaret Atwood. Atwood is a brilliant writer (on the Nobel list perhaps) but I’m not a fan of The Handmaid’s Tale, which is her most popular novel because of the Hulu TV series. My personal favorite is Life Before Man. Is that because I prefer reality to dystopia?.
Ducks, Newburyport, by Lucy Ellman. This book is longlisted for the Booker Prize. Although I loved Ellman’s earlier short quirky novels, among them Dot in the Universe, I have decided to pass on this 1,000-page novel about an Ohio housewife. Maybe an Idaho housewife, or an Oregon housewife would be less cliched.
Of course it will be a miracle if I find time to read Price, Rushdie. and Cervantes, along with all the other books on my TBR, because we know I’ll revert to Mrs. Humphry Ward.