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.