One for the Books - Joe Queenan

In One for the Books, Queenan examines the entire culture of reading and what books really mean in people’s lives today. What does it suggest if a person has no books displayed in his living room? Can an obsession with reading prove detrimental to one’s well being? How useful are covers in selling books? Queenan’s many fans—as well as anyone who loves books and reading—will want to join him on his unforgettably funny and moving journey.

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This was a solid 3 star read for me. While some of his stories really grabbed my interest, others had me feeling a little disappointed. There were a good many things I related to as a fellow lover of books -- mainly how he always has a book on him wherever he goes and rarely ever reads an "it" book of the year during the year it's most popular -- but there were other bits that had me saying, "hmm, can't second that one." But that's how reading life goes. It's a pretty personal experience that varies from reader to reader. That's what makes me such a sucker for these books too, I'm always curious to know what others experience! :-)

 

Avid book readers are people who are at some level dissatisfied with reality.

~ Joe Queenan

 

Some of the things that made my aww, bummer! list while reading:

 

>> It was a little hard to read about his book hoarding. I have a bit of a hoard myself, but him describing his collection sounded like there were a lot of duplicates or books that he admittedly rarely if ever cracks open. I couldn't help but feel like man, you can't edit some of that down?! I know, I know, his library, his choice. Just saying it got to me a bit. Just me.

 

>> It seemed like he got a kick out of knocking either popular or popularly unpopular (while also talking up his love of obscure, "underground" type titles) books but sometimes I wondered if he really believed all he was saying or was he just saying things for humor, bragging or shock value.

 

>> It was tough to hear him talking about being given the chance to hold and look over an ORIGINAL F. Scott Fitzgerald manuscript and he feels NOTHING?! He admits that he knows this will probably shock and upset a lot of booknerds and yes, I cringed and had an inner cry, since ol' Fitz is one of my personal favorites! The odd thing is later on he goes on to talk about the magic of a physical book: "We believe that the objects themselves are sacred, not just the stories they tell." But... Fitzgerald's original papers ... and nothing?! :'-(

 

>> There were a number of passages where he seemed to get pretty down on women readers and / or women's lit (though he does also discuss female writers that he enjoys).

 

>> There's a fair amount that came off as one-upping kind of talk to me, a mix of "I read the most" "I read the best, the classics ... not like other people read"... that kind of thing.

 

>> The blanket statements! The one that made me cringe most: "People who have grown up poor don't like buying things secondhand...There isn't anything special about buying a used book... I only buy secondhand books out of desperation. There is, it seems to me, a poverty of spirit about not wanting to purchase the shiny new book by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. People should consider it an honor to pay full price for a book by Don DeLillo or Margaret Atwood. An honor." The pomposity, I swear. I grew up dirt poor. Though a bit more financially stable these days, by no stretch of the imagination would I call myself "well off" now. Considering my own library, how meager it would be without secondhand & thrift stores (because yeah, umm not everyone can stomach paying $15+ for a freaking paperback at B&N), I had a big thumbs down for this line of thinking.

 

People who prefer ebooks... think these {physical} books merely take up space. This is true, but so do your children and Prague and the Sistine Chapel.

 

>> I thought it was kind of weird how he kept fixating and circling around his mortality. I mean, yeah it's inevitable for everyone but he just. kept. bringing. it. up.

 

Let me put a disclaimer on this whole thing and re-iterate that this was just my own reaction to this book. These are the things that had me nodding or shaking my head nah. Still a fun read through (at least one) for any book lover who loves books about books. Plus, one of the best things about these kinds of books, you can't help but get at least a few reading suggestions that you might not come across otherwise! I definitely added a few to my endless TBR :-)

 

NOTE TO READERS: Be careful of the spoiler bombs in this one. Just some of the books he drops spoilers for: The Crime of Olga Arbyelina, Ethan Frome, Wuthering Heights, The Bookshop, and Rabbit, Run.