There are two kinds of people in this world (besides those who divide the world into two parts and those who don't): book borrowers and book buyers. I am a book borrower. People who have seen my book collection may take issue with this statement, but I tend not to acquire that many books permanently. At least, not as many as I could, given my literary appetite and my inability to resist pretty cover art. It's partially a financial thing--why buy the milk when I can have the cow for three weeks for free?--and partially the fact that I'm picky about what books I claim as my own. I don't want to buy something, read it, decide it's mediocre, and have it sitting on my shelf for all eternity, (She's Come Undone, I'm looking at you).*
But yesterday, armed with a gift card that I don't quite remember receiving, I marched into Borders and came out with two paperbacks that I am happy to add to my permanent collection.
I suspect that Julie Powell's Julie and Julia is going to be my favorite book of 2006 (well, except for Middlemarch, but that's kind of an unfair comparison, it seems to me). I picked it up this past spring as some light reading, and it's been haunting me ever since. Just before her 30th birthday and feeling slightly miserable, Julie Powell decided on a whim to cook all 524 recipes in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a year, and to keep a blog about her experiences; J&J is the result of that project. After I finished the book, I found myself looking for more good food writing. But upon further thought, I've decided that it's not the food that charmed me (there's an entire chapter on aspic, or objects encased in savory jell-o); it's Julie herself. She's hilarious and neurotic--and not always in a charming way--and slightly unhinged in a way that doesn't often come out in the whole-wheat, whole-foods world of food writing. When she just can't hack Julia and her marrow-sauce-making ways, Julie watches The West Wing and eats Domino's pizza with bacon and jalapenos instead. In short, she's someone I would probably hang out with. I realized recently that instead of searching the library for something to fill the void, maybe I should just suck it up and buy a copy, and re-read it to my heart's content. So I did. Yesterday, I found myself reading at red lights on the way home from the bookstore, and I realized that I haven't done that in awhile--since the first time I read J&J, I think. That's a good sign. It's nice to have her back.
Also, in a satisfying instance of writerly worlds colliding, I turned my copy over to read the back-cover blurb (this is what publishing geeks do), and found an endorsement by Lauren Winner, the author of my favorite book from last year. It seems that Winner--a Christian, a writer, and sometimes a Christian writer--reviewed J&J for the Washington Post and loved it just as much as I did. I must be moving in a small literary circle, but at least everyone I read gets along, I guess.
I also bought a copy of To Kill A Mockingbird, which I haven't read since the ninth grade, but it was the first school book I ever stayed up late to finish. There's also the persistent rumor that it was partially or wholly ghostwritten by Truman Capote--since, clearly, a woman in 1950s couldn't possibly have written a single outstanding novel and nothing else. So I'm partly reading as a little sign of solidarity with Harper Lee, linking elbows with her against the second-guessers (also, I ask: Did Truman Capote have the kind of heart that came up with To Kill A Mockingbird?). Bonus for me, it's a really pretty copy, one that will probably look dated in fifteen years, but for now it's just kind of iconic and artsy, with rough-cut pages. I love it.
Mmmm, new old books.
*I make an exception for classics, which I acquire with abandon, usually in used paperback editions that find their final home with me. I figure that if people are still reading them, they can't be total dreck, right?