“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.” (Oscar Wilde)
During my teenage years, my grandmother passed along an old, worn copy of a Dorothy Parker poetry book. She’d received it from a friend, and the pages were yellowed, worn and perfect. I’ve carried that book from college apartment complexes to historic Virginia towns, from brick Chicago walk-ups to my current suburban house a few miles away from where my grandmother lives.
Dorothy Parker and my grandmother are linked in my mind, in part because Parker’s writing is witty, honest and critical, a half-step from some of the things my grandmother might say. “The first thing I do in the morning is brush my teeth and sharpen my tongue,” quoth Parker. I suspect my grandmother has the same routine.
But they’re also linked because of that physical book, which I can thumb through from time to time to find a biting insult or an old-school feminist one-liner. It’s a piece of my prized collection of books, those that have made the cut for permanent storage and display.
For the past four years, I’ve been trying to figure out how to divide my longform reading between electronic books and the old-fashioned paper versions. I’ve been culling my print menagerie down to things that I love, plan to revisit, or want to read (but haven’t gotten to yet). The yet-to-read piles are the most dangerous: Stacked in multiple rooms, waiting for just the right moment, their population expands and contracts from month to month but never disappears. I have a Kindle (and use the related iPad app) and read many books that way. Does anyone have a great “system” for this? Or are we muddling through equally? [Read more…]