I bailed on two more books last week. Something’s up. Either I’ve already read all the good books my library has to offer, or I’ve become too picky. I can’t find anything to read. I work in that library. Not as a librarian, but as a finance manager. I do the accounting, the budgeting, I shepherd the annual audit. I hole myself away in my office at 7:15 every morning and barely move until 4:30. I spend my days alone.
This schedule suits me. 7:15 may seem early, but my kids leave for school at 7:00, so we all walk out together. Plus, I’m the first one at work. I love walking into a dark, quiet building and flipping on only the lights I need to get to my office. I’m embraced and protected by my cocoon of illumination. I envision the morning commuters driving past my building and wondering who starts working so early at the library.
It sounds like a long, lonely day, but it isn’t. I take a break at lunchtime to read blogs.
Three weeks ago, I finally grabbed Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. I’ve had a total of one literary conversation at work in the year I’ve been there, and American Gods is the resulting recommendation. Apparently, several of our branch managers love Neil Gaiman, and apparently, American Gods is his quintessential work. It sat on my to-read list for months. Walking through the fiction section after dropping off a reimbursement check with an employee, I saw American Gods on a book cart waiting to be reshelved. I just finished another novel, one I plodded through, opting to write most nights instead of read because the reading left me bored. American Gods seemed like a remedy for my reading apathy.
Ugh. I read half that book, two-hundred-sixty pages, and I barely saw a plot. Gaiman strung together one vignette after another, seemingly unrelated, into a rough character sketch of Shadow—an unbelievable ex-con. Perhaps Gaiman expertly snapped these loose pieces together into a story of ingenuity by the end of the book, but I wasn’t around to find out. I dropped an unfinished American Gods in the book return lamenting a wasted week of reading.
In this essay, I intended to write about the next two books I selected, and how I set each aside after one chapter, unimpressed with the writing, uncaptured by the blossoming characters and plot. I intended to write about Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running—his negativity; his strong, absolute opinions I didn’t agree with; the way he wrote twice in his book “it goes without saying…” and then he said it. But honestly, these books aren’t good enough to write about. Time after time, bored or frustrated with my book choices, I clicked into a blog.
Yesterday, I realized that over the past few months, the blogs I’m reading are higher quality storytelling than the books I’m reading. I’m picky about my blogs. Often, I’m drawn to the subject matter—running, sobriety, mental health, marginalized or disabled populations—but more, I’m drawn to the writing. The writing needs to shine if I’m going to read. Direct, believable, sparse, poetic and cliché-free.
I have this foolproof method for finding new blogs. I’ll search on a tag—my favorite is creative nonfiction—and then I scroll down the page searching for a strong first sentence. If I follow you, it’s likely you grabbed me with a catchy opening line. Of course, the rest of the post was probably good too, or at least captivating, or I would have clicked away.
Over the past week, a pair of posts left me speechless. I’m certain they’re the best I’ve read on WordPress, at least for a long time. Each would easily stand up against the competition in a highfalutin literary journal or review. I’m calling these posts mandatory reading, an opportunity for everyone to see it done right. Please take ten minutes to read them, they’re worth your time.
See? Great stuff! No wonder I can’t get through these pedestrian books. There’s better stuff to be found online.