Book talk: “So Many Books, So Little Time”

Front Cover

So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading
Sara Nelson
Berkeley Trade (paperback), 2004 (ISBN 0425198197)
Books and reading, memoir; 256 pages

First Sentence: Call me Insomniac.

Book Description: “Sometimes subtle, sometimes striking, the interplay between our lives and our books is the subject of this unique memoir by well-known publishing correspondent and self-described “readaholic” Sara Nelson. From Solzhenitsyn to Laura Zigman, Catherine M. to Captain Underpants, the result is a personal chronicle of insight, wit, and enough infectious enthusiasm to make a passionate reader out of anybody.”

Comments: I thought this was an appropriate first selection for my Personal TBR Challenge, and it turned out to be a relatively fast, and very enjoyable, reading experience.

Sara Nelson sets herself the task of reading a book a week every week for one year, and keeping a journal of her reading during the period. (This was back in the pre-blogging days of 2002.) She starts out with a plan and a reading list, but quickly finds that circumstances can send her reading choices in completely different directions. By the end of the year, she’s done a lot of reading, but not quite in the way she expected to. She’s read many unplanned books, and not read quite a few of the ones on her original list, particularly the books in the poetry and nonfiction categories; she had good intentions of expanding her reading horizons during the year, but fiction is her first literary love and just calls to her more often, particularly as she trolls her bookshelves at 3 AM, looking for her next victim. (Hence, the first sentence…)

While there’s plenty of discussion of particular books here, and you may come away with your own list of books you want to read, this is a memoir much more than a recommended-reading guide. It very much reflects Sara’s personal experiences with the books she read that year, in addition to some of her other personal experiences during the time. Her tastes in reading are informed but unpretentious – no literary snobbery here – and her discussions of the books she loved, the books she didn’t like, and the books she didn’t finish are accessible and often insightful.

Sara Nelson’s eager approach to reading, and her love for it, come through clearly. I liked her voice, and the way she relates to books and reading comes across very much like mine. When she talked about books that I’ve also read, I found myself wanting to discuss them with her, or at least be able to leave her a comment – this is what blogging does to a person! In any case, I genuinely enjoyed this book, and it’s helped to stoke my own enthusiasm for reading.

Rating: 3.75/5


btt button

This week’s question is suggested by (blogless) JMutford:

Sometimes I find eccentric characters quirky and fun, other times I find them too unbelievable and annoying. What are some of the more outrageous characters you’ve read, and how do you feel about them?

Don’t forget to leave a link to your actual response (so people don’t have to go searching for it) in the comments—or if you prefer, leave your answers in the comments themselves!

I think this is a really good question – one for which I’ll probably have a delayed response, if I can think of one at all. This is where it would probably help if I read more series books that featured the same character(s). On the other hand, I tend to like “quirky” characters better in supporting roles or in concentrated doses, so I’m not sure I would read a series that featured an overly-eccentric lead character. Sometimes they’re fun, but I find that at other times they’re overly “written” and just not realistic. That is, you’d either never meet someone like this in real life, or you’d run off screaming if you did.

For much more interesting answers than this one, visit the main post at BTT.

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  1. Reading. Books. I remember that.

    I don’t think I can handle a book a week (like I did before marriage and kids and yes, blogging), but I have started accepting a lot more book review gigs. I figure that’s going to force me back into the reading habit.

    This sounds like a nice one to add to an eventual list. Thank you!

  2. Donna – I actually got my first book-review offer this week, but most of my book posts are about things I read on my own. I can make it through about a book a week if I don’t have too much else going on (and I spend less time blogging! :-D), but some of the book bloggers seem to get through a book every couple of days, given the pace of their review postings!

  3. You’ve written a great review of Sara Nelson’s novel, Florinda. I read her book soon after it first came out(begged my husband for a copy) and enjoyed it quite a bit. I especially enjoyed the inside look at book marketing, something that had been completely foreign to me before then.

  4. I just read Nelson’s book and reviewed it on my blog. Like you, I enjoyed it and appreciated that Nelson is not a “book snob” like you say.

    Because I was reading it to find out about the books Nelson read, I was surprised by how personal my reaction was to Nelson’s writing. Which was her point all along.

  5. RCR – Thanks for linking to your insightful review, and giving me an excuse to check out your blog (which I have added to my Google Reader).

    I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed this book – thanks for giving me a chance to remember!

  6. I think a lot of book lists are more of memoirs or "what I liked to read" guides rather than applicable to every person. We all have different tastes. Sounds interesting.