Sunday, January 20, 2008

Book Lust-- Recommended Reading For Every Mood, Moment, and Reason-- Nancy Pearl -- Review

Book Lust Recommended Reading For Every Mood, Moment, and Reason by Nancy Pearl (Sasquatch Books, c2003) is a selection guide for choosing books to read. Nancy Pearl is the Director of the Center for the Book and Programming at the Seattle Public Library. There is a library action figure done of her.

Nancy Pearl wanted to be a librarian since she was ten years old. She is a constant reader since she was very young.

This is an A to Z subject guide for books broken down into subject headings like Cat Crazy, Graphic Novels, and Irish Fiction. Each subject heading has about a page and a half of recommended readings. She suggests that someone should not read more than 50 pages into a book they don't like.

Most of the books being discussed are mainstream fiction and nonfiction. The subject guide is pretty comprehensive. The only subject which I found missing which we get a lot of questions about at our library is "urban fiction" books about street life, sex, drugs, and money in the ghetto. Authors like Noire, Zane, Eric Jerome Dickey, and Omar Tyree.

The focus is on the absolute best books by mainstream authors for fiction and nonfiction. Authors like Gabriel Garcia Marquez, George Macdonald Frazer, and Milan Kundera are discussed. The fiction comes from every part of the globe, Mexico, the Middle East, Africa, Ireland, Japan, Australia, China and many other locales. Fiction titles include romance, science fiction, fantasy, and westerns. She admits she is not a big fan of horror.

I also noticed that some of the more controversial titles are not included. For example Henry Miller and Anais Nin are not included in the section on sex books. The section on Robert A. Heinlein mostly focuses on his juveniles. While Stranger in A Strange Land is mentioned, Starship Troopers is not.

Her selection of favorite authors includes Jonathan Letham, Iris Murdoch, Richard Powers, Connie Willis, Rex Stout (Nero Wolfe), Gore Vidal, and Ross Thomas. These are all fairly mainstream novelists. I rather like Nero Wolfe myself.

Her popular romance section includes a few regency romances and popular novelists like Judith McNaught and Victoria Holt. It takes some courage to suggest romance novels. Many librarians and editors look down their noses at romance books.

In her graphic novels section she mentions a few comics lit titles that are popular like Maus and Maus II and Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Boy on Earth. She does not have a section on manga in this book.

Nancy Pearl's selection of popular science books is also quite good. Guns, Germ, and Steel by Jared Diamond is quite good. If you get a chance also read Collapse by Jared Diamond about what happens when a civilization exceeds its environmental carrying capacity.

Among the hundreds of listed books, I found a few titles to put on hold which I will look at to determine if I want to read them:

Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonders: Pronged Ants, Horned Humans, Mice On Toast, and Other Marvels of Jurassic Technology by Lawrence Weschler.

The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity and the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester

Freedom in Meditation by Patricia Carrington.

This is actually quite good. I usually am able to only find one book among selection lists to read.

She does a really good job of selecting mainstream fiction and nonfiction titles. If you are looking for more controversial writers like Audre Lord, Samuel R. Delany, or Charles Bukowski look elsewhere.

Nancy Pearl now has a deluxe library action figure of her with books, book carts, and a computer. It takes a real heroine to promote literacy and books these days.


Stella said...

Maybe there'll be an action figure of you one day :)

Book Calendar said...

I think it is quite silly. I really like it. It is of a real person. It values reading.

Cromely said...

I loved listening to Nancy Pearl on KUOW in Seattle. You can hear the love and passion for books drip off her tongue through the car speakers.

I also like here 50 page rule. If you're not into a book after 50 pages, put it down and go read something else. There are too many good books in the world to waste time reading bad ones.