Over the past couple of years, with the embarrasment of books already in my home, I’ve tried to get a lot better about getting books from the library. (Especially with book club, since if I’d actually bought copies of John Varley’s Red Thunder or Greg Egan’s Teranesia I’d be pretty angry. I’m still a little scarred by briefly owning David Gerrold’s Blood and Fire, for that matter, but this is all fodder for an entirely different entry about hits and misses from the book club.) I’m regularly taking older books to the library for donation, in fact, trying to thin things out, re-evaluating what needs to stick around.
As it is, I’ve still got a bunch of amazing books just waiting to be read (some ones I chose, other ones that friends wisely picked out for me), and so I’m trying to minimize the inflow to ones that are really important/interesting to me, ones that I feel are worthy of making the cut. I have actually bought a couple of books recently; these are ones that “made the cut” and were considered (not yet read at the time of purchase) good enough to not just be a library borrowing. So, let’s see:
Possible Side Effects by Augusten Burroughs. To be honest, none of his books have really captured my attention in the way that Dry (his story of alcohol addiction and recovery) grabbed me and was devoured over the course of 48 hours. They’re good travel books, though, especially since his last two have been collections of short essays/stories. Fun, but with diminishing returns. Having just finished this one, I think any future books by Burroughs will be via the library for me.
The Rules for Hearts by Sara Ryan. I first heard of Ryan through her also-talented husband Steve Lieber; her first novel Empress of the World was the sort of book I wish I’d read when I was a teen, and her first comic (with Lieber) “Me and Edith Head” was sheer elegance. I had a gift certificate burning in my pocket from Lambda Rising, and I’d just decided that in addition to Possible Side Effects I’d finally buy one of the Love and Rockets re-issues that I’ve been eyeing for ages. Then I saw they had The Rules for Hearts in and you’d have thought L&R was on fire I’d dropped it so fast. Oh, and Ryan’s got other great comics out as well. If you haven’t already, go check out her short story “Click” (drawn by Dylan Meconis) and see what you’ve been missing. I’m about halfway through the book now and am absolutely loving it.
The Devil You Know by Mike Carey. I’ve enjoyed Carey’s comics in the past (Lucifer and Crossing Midnight in particular) and Karon had said good things about his prose novel debut. Since he was in town a couple of months ago for a signing tour connected to it, I decided it was a good a time as any to buy a copy, say hello to him again (we’d met a couple years ago), and give it a whirl. Hopefully I’ll be starting it soon.
The Selected Stories of O. Henry by O. Henry. Ok, I have to admit I haven’t actually bought this yet, but only because the last time I was at the store the line was so long I decided to go back. But it’s part of Barnes & Noble’s “Classics Series” which are bargain-priced; in this case a nice 432-page trade paperback for $5.95. What little I’ve read of his short stories I’ve enjoyed in the past, so I figure this is as good a way as any to give it a whirl.
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Dubliners by James Joyce. And last but not least, also from the “Classic Series” we have another inexpensive trade paperback. I read Portrait when I was in high school and I loathed it, pure and simple. But I am a bit wiser now and I want to give it another shot. More importantly, though, the only story from Dubliners I’ve ever read is “The Dead” and I think it’s a truly amazing piece of writing, one of the best out there. So that is what really attracted me to this book; the chance to read the rest of Dubliners and to have a more easily-accessible copy of “The Dead” for my Christmas Eve tradition of reading said story. (Normally I have to dig out my college textbooks and figure out which one contained it.) This will be an interesting journey to see just what else of Joyce’s I actually like.