What Shall I Read Next?

Elizabeth Bluemle -- December 9th, 2013

For the first time in 2013, I have a free pass to read whatever I want. The funny thing about being a bookseller is that, while one gets to read, one also has to read. By that I mean booksellers must read almost constantly, and often must read all manner of books we might not otherwise pick up guided by personal preference. We read broadly so that we may make intelligent orders for the upcoming season and know which titles we will and won’t be especially recommending to a wide variety of customers.

The very thing that propels us toward bookselling is, in a sense, elusive once we become booksellers. There is something to be said for the pleasure of a book one reads for no other reason than personal interest. This year’s Pig-Tales (our store’s annual newsletter/catalog, now hot off the press) features 166 titles published in 2013, 70 of which I reviewed. In addition to those 70 books are countless titles I read and wasn’t able to include. All this is by way of saying, I have read a LOT of books this year, and while I thoroughly enjoyed the journey, I was reading with purpose. Reading was part of my work. 

For the next three weeks, I get to read whatever I want, with no pressure, no thought of sales meetings or review writing (or blog posts). I can just  READ. Most of this reading will happen during January vacation, but I will sneak some in even during these crazy days of holiday retail sales. And I haven’t decided yet what exactly I want to read.

Some years, I go on a reading jag by theme; I went on an Everest/K2 spree one year. Another year, it was the Iditarod and the Yukon Quest. Maybe I’ll read some mysteries, which I rarely find time to do. Maybe I’ll see what Elizabeth Peters is up to; haven’t read one of her mysteries in quite a while but had loved Amelia Peabody and Emerson through a January spell once. Perhaps I’ll finally get around to Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White; I could be in a gothic mood….

I may even re-read! Re-reading books is a luxury the bookseller can seldom afford, so it is almost an illicit pleasure, the ultimate self-indulgence. I might read The Tempest again, or Charlotte’s Web, or My Family and Other Animals. Or Elizabeth Bishop!

Or I may choose something so few of my customers would be interested in that it is almost entirely a private act. Some wildly experimental fiction, perhaps, or something utterly dense and difficult that someone trusted has said is worth the work.

And I may read marvelous books recommended to me, fiction and nonfiction that friends and colleagues hold dear, that I have somehow missed along the way. And so I turn to you, ShelfTalker readers and ask, What shall I read next? What can I not live a moment more without discovering? 

Thank you in advance for sharing your best-of-the-best, from this year or not, with me and with each other.