Day 3

25 Days Read 3

Why I Read: The Serious Pleasure of Books, by Wendy Lesser

Why do you read? My book club friends and I regularly revisit this question, mostly as part of the conversation about what we will pick for next month’s discussion. It’s not surprising that, among our 10 club members, our reasons for reading are as varied as our personalities. Some prefer escapist fiction and happy stories because they want reading to take them away from real-life worries. Others gravitate toward nonfiction because they still read to learn. Some want hard, gritty literature that challenges their preconceptions about the world and ourselves. And, of course, a few members (including me) want to mix it up so that the act of reading feels different from book to book.

Earnest readers will enjoy exploring the subject of reading with Wendy Lesser. Lesser has the chops to take on this grand topic: she’s the founder and editor of the literary magazine The Threepenny Review, a well-published author of nonfiction and a novel, and a lifetime literary critic. More than anything, she is an impassioned reader. Lesser has read widely and deeply, and—as the book’s subtitle proclaims—she takes a serious approach to books. Big names like Dickens and Dickinson appear alongside contemporary faves like Mantel and Murakami, and literary concepts like character, plot, and narrative authority give the book its framework. But, throughout it all, Lesser insists on reading as pleasure. That’s her main motive in reading and also in writing this book for fellow readers. She goes behind the curtains of some of her favorite books, plays, and poems to discover the literary tricks that help these works produce pleasure, not just for her but for a wide audience. Her approach can be professional at times and personal at others. So embark on this book with a sense of adventure. Literature, writes Lesser in the prologue, is “always an adventure of some kind. Even the second or third or tenth time you read it, a book can surprise you, and to discover a new writer you love is like discovering a whole new country.” Why I Read inspired in me a new interest in detective novels, and it is bound to take you to some uncharted territory as well. Go forth and read!

10 Bookish Finds for Book Lovers Like Me





How deep is your love? If your love of books runs as deep as mine, then you’re a sucker for bookish finds of all kinds. For today’s Top Ten Tuesday, I’ve collected some of my favorite bookish finds from across the Web. I hope some of them become your favorites, too.

Thanks to the bloggers at The Broke and the Bookish for today’s Top Ten Tuesday topic. I always love joining their conversation.


078531027d4001c4629e5c9223e10fb0I like to think perhaps Jane Austen carried a flask back in the day. It would have helped her get through all those awkward dinner parties and matchmaking soirees. Here’s one, complete with Austen’s silhouette, for your next book club gathering. Available on Etsy.



I haven’t figured out precisely what items to make with this fairy-tale and folklore fabric, but surely I need something. Scarlett O’Hara would make both drapes and a dress! Available from Cloud9 Fabrics.


3279If you’re the sweet, generous sort that loans out books to friends, you might want one of these custom stamps to make sure the borrowers remember to return. I’ll bet “Dana Cleveland” gets her books back!  Available at Paper Source.


il_570xN.472564471_1x0sSo this custom pillow could be for word lovers as well as readers, but it seems a must for any library or favorite reading nook. The only thing holding me back from owning one is the big decision of what word to highlight. So many words, so few pillows. Available on Etsy.



arabian-tee-10_1024x1024No matter how many times I look at these designs, I’m amazed. Litographs takes words from novels, treatises, and famous classic texts and puts them (most of them) onto T-shirts, totes, and prints. Don’t wear one unless you’re ready for people to take a closer look. Available from Litographs.





This particular purse is perfect for spring, but the folks at NovelCreations have a bag to suit every season and every mood. There are great bags for young readers, too, if they’re fans of, say, Fault in Our Stars or Charlotte’s Web. Available at Etsy.


FDL01So what does Edgar Allan Poe smell like, anyway? Apparently, he’s got a whiff of absinthe mixed with cardamom and sandalwood. That’s the impression of the people at Paddywax, who make a very cool collection of library fragrance diffusers and candles. You’ll find Dickinson, Dickens, and more. Available at Paddywax.



Wrap_Hobbies2_mediumIf you usually give books as gifts—as I do—then make sure to wrap them in some bookish paper. Visit this website when you have plenty of time to browse all the other great literary items, from Shakespeare playing cards to a “Little Librarian Kit” for kids.  Available from The Reader’s Catalog.



It’s National Library Week right now, and hence the ideal time to buy yourself some little notebooks fashioned like library checkout cards. Available on Etsy.


library-tote_gray-219x219And, to go with your mini notebooks, here’s a library lovers tote to put them in, along with all your monthly checkouts. Available from Out of Print.


Dirty Little Secrets: Why I Love Library Books


I’ll go ahead and admit it: I love dirty books. I don’t mean pornography or erotica (though there’s certainly a time and place for that, too). I’m talking about books that have a little grease and grime between the covers.

In these days of e-readers and book downloads, I still enjoy a good hardcover borrowed from the public library. I’m a sucker for a musty, yellowed, dog-eared book that’s been around the block a few times. I love to take it off the shelf, thumb through its pages, and look for marks and blemishes that reveal secrets about its past.

Now, I’m as susceptible to OCD as the next person. In fact, if you ask my husband, that’s an understatement. I bathe in hand sanitizer when I travel. I rewash dish towels if they accidentally come into contact with dirty socks in the same load of laundry. I’ve been known to turn cute kids away from my back door if they’re recovering from an illness of any kind. But when it comes to books, I choose not to let my obsession with cleanliness get the best of me. My reading habits are old-school, and I can’t help but love a book with some history behind it.

I miss the days when library books had actual check-out cards inside the front cover; those cards told a lot about where a book had been, letting me see the names of the readers who had chosen it before me. Based on the handwriting and names I found, I would guess at the borrowers’ ages, their backgrounds, their reading preferences. I’d add my name to that list and think about future readers making similar assumptions about me.

Without that tangible list of names and dates, I have to invent my own backstory for each book I check out. But I don’t mind. The imagined backstory for each borrowed book can become as intriguing as the story told within the pages. Take, for instance, the many titles I’ve borrowed for book club. When I checked out Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods,  I wondered whether the library’s banged-up copy had caught a ride in another hiker’s backpack as he followed in Bryson’s footsteps. As I made my way through The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, I fantasized about that well-worn copy traveling overseas and through the winding streets of Barcelona with its reader. A drop on the pages of Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury might have come, I thought, from another reader’s attempt to re-create the grandfather’s summer cocktail recipe. Maybe a sticky spot in Devil in the White City by Erik Larson was a remnant from someone’s craving for Cracker Jacks. A brown smudge on the pages of Kathyrn Stockett’s The Help could have been left by a spilled bite of chocolate pie. (Please, please, please tell me it was chocolate pie.)

While a book spends its two-week loan with me, I’m not afraid to add to its legacy. Though I certainly don’t try to dirty up a borrowed book, it’d be a shame if I didn’t leave some sort of imprint (both literally and figuratively) on it. That doesn’t mean writing in the margins; I absolutely draw the line there. It does mean, however, that I don’t sweat it if I leave behind a splash from my hot tea in the winter or a cold beer in the summer. That small splash can create a connection between me, the borrowers that came before, and the borrowers yet to come.

The usually solitary act of reading becomes much less solitary with a library book. By virtue of being marred, injured, and dirty, a book forms a bond between all of its readers, past and present. When I see that other readers have loved a book as I have, my faith in humanity—and the humanities—is restored.