Sunday, October 23, 2011

So Many Books, So Little Time by Sara Nelson, Plus Tidbits

Being a tea-drinker from the time I was old enough to hold a cup,
I really, really want a copy of this book! From Shelf Awareness for Readers and Shelf Awareness Pro:

A Tea Reader: Living Life One Cup at a Time
by Katrina Ávila Munichiello, editor

As autumn arrives, many of us look forward to crisp fall evenings curled up with a steaming mug and a good book. This anthology of essays, stories and poems devoted to the art and comfort of tea is as warm and soothing as that hot cuppa.
A Tea Reader is divided into five "steeps," each illuminating a different aspect of tea: its effect on the individual, its ability to create fellowship, the formal and informal rituals attending it, the joys and hardships of careers in tea, and the travels of tea enthusiasts. Readers will connect with fellow tea lovers throughout history, from ancient Chinese poets to 19th-century authors to modern-day authorities. Rudyard Kipling details his visit to a Japanese teahouse; New Orleans tea seller George Constance rebuilds his shop after Hurricane Katrina tears it down; other writers recount the beginnings of their own love affairs with the leaf.
While the book's topic alone makes it the perfect gift for the tea enthusiast in your life, the selections all are also skillfully written, whether somber, joyful or educational in tone. Most share a contemplative, peaceful sensibility (often achieved over a cup of Earl Grey). So although at least a passing appreciation for tea will further readers' appreciation, any fan of good writing will enjoy sampling the contents... even, dare it be said, those who prefer coffee. --Jaclyn Fulwood, graduate assistant, University of Oklahoma Libraries

I agree, and I am a fan of Vincent Van Gogh:

"I think it's going to be many years before there's a formal portrait
where the sitter is clutching his or her Kindle or iPad. I'm not at all
concerned that the interest in the book is going to disappear," said Ken
Soehner, chief librarian at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in introducing some of
his favorite book-related artwork for the Met's Connections series.

"Books have a symbolic importance that goes far beyond the text," he
observed, adding: "I think Van Gogh is one of the great painters of
books. They are very bookish. They're very much about the materiality of
books. They are not props. They're part of the inevitability of everyday
life. Oddly enough, they're very often not the sitter's books, but Van
Gogh's books. It's the self-portrait in a way through his books."

So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading by Sara Nelson is yet another readers memoir about taking a year to read a certain number of books for a specific reason. In this case, Nelson wants to read books she should have read in high school and college, as well as books in her TBR stacks that she hasn't gotten to for one reason or another, plus books she wants to revisit, books friends give her, books on her parents shelves, etc. This is the third such memoir I've read this year, and though I did enjoy Nelson's insights and sense of humor about trying to be a parent and a writer and still have time to read a book a week for a year, I found myself slightly put off by her consistent references to being a New Yorker, a Jewish person, and a cynic. Not that it is bad to be any of those things, but Nelson contends that they influence her reading choices to the exclusion of other genres of books. It seems to lead her to a fascination/obsession with Philip Roth and to be bored with 90 percent of children's literature, which saddened me, as I've always felt that some of the worlds the greatest authors wrote books for children, and my mother reading classic children's books to me has had a great influence on my life as a reader. Though I can't, as an Iowan Protestant, really identify with Nelson about many of her book choices, I can identify with her struggle to find the time to read as a wife and mother and journalist. And I found her familiar ground when she states that she likes to have two or more books going at once, as that's something I also do all the time. I also completely understood her method of finding inspiration for writing:
"Any writer who's honest will tell you that she usually comes up with her best lines or her important transitional paragraph not when she's sitting in front of the computer, watching the clock or using the word-count mechanism in her word processing program, but when she's stepping into the showing, making dinner or cleaning the cat litter." So true!
Nelson reviews mostly books that I have already read or would never read (I've never liked the work of Philip Roth)but her love of Elinor Lipman, my grad school mentor, and her adulation of Nora Ephron, whom I also adore, kept me reading and laughing. I'd give the book a solid B+ and recommend it for all those bibliophiles out there who struggle to find time to read in their hectic lives.


Katrina said...

Thank you for the nice comments about my book "A Tea Reader." I was honored to receive such a nice review from Shelf Awareness. I hope you do get the chance to check it out.

DeAnn G. Rossetti said...

Thanks for stopping by, Katrina, and you've reminded me to add your book to my wish list! It sounds like the kind of book that not only I would enjoy, but my mother would love as well! Perhaps I will be able to find two copies. Fingers crossed!
Thanks again,