More Book Lust: 1,000 New Reading Recommendations for Every Mood, Moment and Reason
by Nancy Pearl
Published by Sasquatch Books
320 pages, 2005
The Joy of the Constant Reader
Reviewed by Andi Shechter
Book Lust was my favorite book of 2003 and yes, let's be up front about it: the Librarian Action Figure is my favorite. (Although the barista is a real close second.)
More Book Lust simply had to happen. When librarian Nancy Pearl wrote her first book, she encouraged feedback to add to the endless lists of really cool books everyone should know about. I should know, I e-mailed her constantly. Nancy Pearl and I share a city, a library and a love of eclectic reading. She's almost never wrong about a book or an author (she was once, I thought, but since we had that conversation, I'm coming around to her point of view.)
If finding out about Ella Minnow Pea was the only thing Book Lust did for me, it would have been worth reading, but there was more, besides. Much more.
Pearl's widely ranging tastes means that she reads books in just about every genre, in every level of the Deweys from the 000 books about books to the 900 histories and just about all in between. She's got her weaknesses, but any fan of books who can, as she does in More Book Lust, offer more than one worthwhile books set in Idaho (not that there aren't such things, but we simply don't always know about them), who can intelligently rave about the works of Anthony Trollope and who can recommend authors by simply saying "this one's too good to miss" (from Lee Child to Barbara Tuchman, P. G. Wodehouse to Neal Stephenson). Well, you should pay attention.
Book Lust was a hard act to follow and for me, More Book Lust doesn't always succeed. Part of that initial rush with the original was the fun of opening a book at random, almost, pointing and going, "OK: I'll read this." The idea of Book Lust was unique so it's perhaps understandable that the polish is a little worn on the sequel. But I think this second book is weaker because in part, the first book took on the areas about which Pearl was clearly the most passionate and most knowledgeable. I mean, where else could you find recommendations in a chapter entitled "This Will Mean Nothing to You," which discusses the concept of zero? In the follow-up, there are several "miscellaneous" style categories that simply don't explain themselves. Books that friends can bond over? Nah. That doesn't really mean anything to me. It depends on the friend. Books that will "ignite discussion"? Sorry, just about any book can do that. The holiday shopping list? Didn't work for me at all; I don't tend to buy books at holidays since I never know what my friends and family already own and it's simply too individual.
But the fun is still there, as is Pearl's passionate and expert touch. Sometimes that fun is in finding a title that made me think: "Hey, I thought I was the only person who treasured that book." In More Book Lust, finding Love in the Driest Season, a memoir I'd reviewed back in 2004, or knowing that Pearl also recommends Xiaolong Qiu's wonderful mysteries made me feel smart. Like most readers, we enjoy sharing the wealth. And while none of these chapters or descriptions are long, it's clear the author knows her stuff. The information she provides of the many titles included shows that she's read the book, or at least something by that author. This is no generic listing. When she writes about a category, she doesn't just name the famous authors, the long-lived authors, there are small press authors, new authors on the scene and people with maybe just one or two books out. And of course I already have a list of titles she missed and, in fact some categories I wish she'd included. A new party game for the constant reader comes to mind: what category would you include if you'd written Book Lust and More Book Lust and what would you put in it?
The publisher did an odd thing with More Book Lust, often listing books in columns that were up against the right margin. I kept thinking something was missing over on the left and wish that they'd just gone ahead with standard format. Not a big deal at all, but a minor distraction to the reader.
And yes, I've already gone to the library's Web site and reserved several titles I found in More Book Lust. And the next three times I read it, I'll do it again. One of the most enjoyable things about owning these books is that you can read them over and over and find something new every time. | July 2005
Andi Shechter has been a publicist, chat host, interviewer, convention-planner, essayist and reviewer. She lives in Seattle with far too many books, an old-but-cute purple computer, not enough soft toys (including a small but select hedgehog and gorilla collection), many figure skating videotapes and an esoteric collection of hot sauces. There's a Hugo Award on her mantelpiece which belongs to her partner, cartoonist and artist Stu Shiffman.