Nancy Pearl is, quite simply, one of us. She loves books,
the places they take you and the stories they tell. While Pearl is
a librarian, her "book lust" comes from childhood and beyond.
I can't imagine not liking this book, and that's something I rarely
say because I'm well aware that my taste in reading often does not
match what's out there (says the woman who really hated THE DA
VINCI CODE). The omnivorous Pearl offers hundreds of fiction and
nonfiction titles, enough to keep any reader busy for years: small
chapters with titles like "This Will Mean Nothing to You" (books
about the concept of zero and black holes) and "100 Good Reads,
Decade by Decade" (comments on authors "too good to miss," like
Mark Kurlansky and George MacDonald Fraser), books on 9/11, good
trial novels, Japanese fiction, books about books,
paleontology books, and a list of great first novels.
I have found all sorts of new titles to read and enjoy since buying
this book; it's worth having just to discover the wonderful ELLA
MINNOW PEA, a book I had heard about but not read. All the chapters
are fairly short, with anywhere from five to fifty titles listed,
all written by a knowledgeable and accessible author who is a fan
of reading. Pearl isn't an expert in all fields, obviously, and
there are some "weak" categories, but she's available by email and
anxious to hear about titles she might have overlooked.
She misses some categories. In my own "special collections," I came
up with "quilting" --- not how-to books but fascinating ones about
unique quilts, like the AIDS quilt, quilts designed for the 1996
Atlanta Olympics, quilts that figured in the Underground Railroad),
1960s history books about Vietnam and the peace movement,
illustrated children's books (I collect books illustrated by
Caldecott medallists Leo and Diane Dillon) and books about
disability, like NO MORE STARES.
However, it's amazing what is included; that Pearl has the
time to read and work a full-time job is truly remarkable (she is
the head of the Center for the Book at the Seattle Public Library).
I have heard her on the radio talking about books and she just
seems to be everywhere. She has read books about subjects I never
even thought about reading.
I live in Seattle and I've known Nancy Pearl for years. She's my
idea of the model librarian: enthusiastic and open-minded (although
she does have one flaw --- she dislikes one of my favorite authors.
And no, I won't tell who it is since I've found some of this
author's later works to be tedious). But finding someone who knows
about your favorite book or genre, or who can speak smartly about
something you really should read, is my ideal. Since September,
I've read BOOK LUST three times, each time marking several pages
with those handy little "book darts" that clip onto a page. Many of
the books have been worth the time.
Recently, I emailed Nancy to complain that her library
(harumph) did not have a title she mentioned in the book. Didn't
they realize they were obligated to have multiple copies? She told
me that that title was out of print, so I'm thinking maybe there
should be a "Nancy Pearl" imprint set up so that the books she
talks about would be available again.
I hope that I'll discover or rediscover more books the next ten
times I read BOOK LUST. And maybe there will be a BOOK LUST II,
which will contain categories Pearl might have missed the first
time as well as new authors "too good to miss" (more women writers,
please!) Oh yeah, and the author is the model for the "Librarian
Action Figure" (as seen on CNN!) that came out just about the same
time as the book did in late 2003.
Reviewed by Andi Shechter on January 21, 2011