Balancing the old with the new, and the many with the few

Pssst…I have a confession to make. I’ve never read Moby Dick.  Or Ulysses. Or Anna Karenina, for that matter.  I’ve meant to for a while now, but there’s one big thing that stops me. I’m a bookseller who works at a bookstore that sells new books. Yes, we sell older titles, too, but often I want to read the new titles that are coming out.  For one thing, it’s fun to be part of the pre-publication buzz.  The other thing is that I like to be able to recommend new reads to customers. A classic novel or even a book that came out ten years ago and won the Pulitzer doesn’t need my recommendation to help it sell.

Then there’s the whole dilemma of re-reading books.  But as Tom (my boss at RiverRun Bookstore) recently blogged about, sometimes we just really need to lose ourselves in a book we already know will keep us glued to our reading chairs for hours on end.  I just purchased The World Before Her by Deborah Weisgall, and a blurb that made a comparison to A.S. Byatt’s Possession immediately made me want to go back to the rich, romantic and scholarly world that I found in Byatt’s book.

So how do we balance the old and the new? It’s important to give ourselves permission to re-read, to read the classics, or to even read a contemporary book that’s already a couple of years old. I guess there’s no such thing as “balancing” when it comes to the reading life. The Libra in me wants to strive for that perfectly level scale, though! (And I’d really like to read Ulysses one of these days).

Ann Kingman and Michael Kindness address the issue of the unopened book on the bookshelf in one of their podcasts at Books on the Nightstand.

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10 Responses to Balancing the old with the new, and the many with the few

  1. mkindness says:

    I’ll soon be announcing a Summer reading challenge that will allow you to read classics, but is still tied to a NEW book!

  2. FlossieT says:

    I can relate to this. I have Anna Karenina on my hitlist for this year, also War and Peace and some Brontes… but it is hard!!

  3. Emily says:

    From the Harper and Random House catalogs ALONE, I counted 29 books I wanted to read by well-established/favorite authors. This, of course, does not include debut authors. How are we going to read it all?

  4. readandbreathe says:

    Michael, I can’t WAIT to hear what that reading challenge is!!!

    I’d love to get to WAR AND PEACE, eventually…

    Emily, this fall list seems to be the best list I’ve seen in years. Clearly we need a month to just read a bunch of the ARCs we get at BEA!

  5. Molly says:

    Since I’ve started blogging, I’ve really tried to focus on reading new books…or at least new-to-me books. So often, I’m torn. I love rereading old favorites, but at the same time, there are so many books that I haven’t even read once yet. I think adding hours to the day might help, but I haven’t figured out how to that yet…

  6. moonrat says:

    come do FILL IN THE GAPS with us. that’s the whole point.

    it forces you to average 15 “old” books a year for five years, thereby filling in all your gaps.

    check it out!!

  7. I totally hear you on this! I feel guilty if I read a backlist title. And the only books I have ever re-read are Harry Potter, Twilight, and Angels & Demons. Which makes my taste sound totally mainstreamy. I guess I just like to indulge in my guilty pleasures once in a while!

  8. gwendolyn b. says:

    I’ve read a lot of the “classics” but I haven’t read MOBY DICK or WAR AND PEACE or ULYSSES. Let’s face it: there’s just too much out there to get to it all! I just try to pick books that I think I will enjoy.

  9. Brandon says:

    I have Moby-Dick and two versions of War and Peace, but I ave yet to read them. I will this year. Read Ulysses a few years ago. It’s a mindbender. You should read it, just to say you’ve done so.

  10. Tracy Seeley says:

    There’s clearly not enough time in one life to read all the books worth reading. But when you’re ready for ULYSSES, keep me posted. I’ve read it many times and taught it, and it’s a happy thing to walk through it with someone discovering it for the first time.

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