Friday, September 10, 2021

I'd Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life - Anne Bogel


I stumbled upon Anne Bogel’s I’d Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life a few days ago at a used-book bookstore and snatched it right up, figuring that Bogel had to be a kindred spirit. And, even though the book was a little less inspiring than I expected it would be, I was correct about Bogel. She is.


I’d Rather Be Reading consists of an introduction and twenty-one short “reflections” on readers, reading, and the books we love so much. Really avid readers know how difficult it is to pass by books like this one when we run across them unexpectedly. I think we enjoy these so much because reading a book about the joys of reading is almost like having a private conversation with a stranger who actually gets who we are. There are lots of us out here in the real world, but it is not every day that we run into each other, so books like I’d Rather Be Reading (along with book blog commenting) are the next best thing. 


But avid readers know a great book doesn’t exist only in the realm of the material. The words between those covers bring whole worlds to life. When I think of the characters and stories and ideas contained on a single shelf of my personal library, it boggles my mind. To readers, those books — the ones we buy and borrow and trade and sell — are more than objects. They are opportunities beckoning us. When we read, we connect with them (or don’t) in a personal way.”


And then, there’s this tidbit: 


“We are readers. Books are an essential part of our lives and of our life stories. For us, reading isn’t just a hobby or a pastime; it’s a lifestyle.”


Bogel even touches briefly on one of my own pet peeves:


“We know the pain of investing hours of reading time in a book we enjoyed right up until the final chapter’s truly terrible resolution…”


And these quotes are all from just the book’s introduction, so yeah, Anne Bogel gets it.


Bogel’s topics for reflection include these:


  • Confessing your literary sins — all those classics you’ve never read,
  • The difference between searching for the next perfect read and having the book find you instead,
  • The unbelievable good luck of living right next door to a city library,
  • How books allow readers to live thousands of different lives,
  • The great fun of organizing and reorganizing your bookshelves — over and over again,
  • The danger of becoming a “book bully” who pushes books on friends and family,
  • All the different readers she has already been during her (relatively short) lifetime,
  • How library due dates motivate her to read more and read faster,
  • How your reading choices influence your real-world coming-of-age,
  • The joy of meeting a “book twin,”
  • Re-reading (“Again, for the First Time”),
  • Personal bookshelves being the true “windows to the soul,” and
  • The difficulty of remembering off the top of your head which books you read even one month ago.


Bottom Line: While I’d Rather Be Reading is fun, and sometimes inspirational, it left me feeling that the author had only skimmed the surface of most of her chosen topics. Some of the chapters read more like introductions to an idea or topic than true reflections, and I was often left wishing for more. I suspect that I would have enjoyed this one more if I had found it a couple of decades earlier (impossible, I know, because I’d Rather Be Reading was published in 2018), making me think that I’ve already read too many similar books — and that maybe there’s just not that much left to say.  


Anne Bogel


18 comments:

  1. I read this book in 2018 and enjoyed it, but I think your assessment is good. It does not go deeply into any subject. Some of the chapters were meaningful to me, others weren't. Which is normal.

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    1. Same here; some chapters were much more meaningful to me than others. Oddly enough, the one that really sticks in my mind most at this point is the one where she describes about literally living right next door to her community's library. What a dream location that would be!

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  2. There are parts of this book that really made me smile, like her chapter on organizing your bookshelves and on library due dates. But I agree, overall this book felt a little thin. I still liked it though. :)

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    1. I liked that chapter, too, and it makes me wonder how many of us just wake up and decide to reorganize some or all of our bookshelves one day. I don't usually do any kind of major resorting, but I enjoy tinkering with the books sometimes. Uncovering old books I'd long forgotten, the ones that sometimes hide behind the first row on the shelves, is really fun.

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  3. Funny enough, I just read this book last night. It was a fun, quick read that I definitely related to. I agree that the reflections are pretty surface and I, like you, would have liked more depth. On the other hand, I liked that it was a light, easy read that I could breeze through in an hour.

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    1. Wow...you are a quick reader. I only read two or three of the chapters in one setting, and I don't have any idea what the cumulative reading time was, but that seems fast.

      I guess I would compare this to the feeling I'm left with when I grab a rare taste of cotton candy...it just sort of dissolves before I know it and I'm left still feeling hungry...still enjoyed a lot of things about it, but found it very light.

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  4. I knew I read this one so I had to check and found my review from 2018: 3.5/5 stars.

    https://bibliophilebythesea.blogspot.com/2018/12/last-2-books-of-2018-spool-of-blue.html

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    1. I think, based on your 2018 review, that you reacted to this one very much the same way I did...with a hint of disappointment in the mix for both of us.

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  5. I have a copy of this upbeat little book. You are right though, I would enjoy a longer book with deeper insights by Bogel, since she is a kindred spirit. More in depth about her favorite authors and books would be appreciated. I think it would be a nice gift book.

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    1. It's a perfect stocking-stuffer for those who read a lot, I think. You're right; it would have been nice to have ended up learning something more about her favorite books and authors. I've ended up adding dozens of books to my TBR by reading books on the same topic, so I guess that was not part of her plan when she began writing this one.

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  6. I've read so many of these books, too, but can never seem to resist a new one. I listened to this a few years ago and probably enjoyed it more in that format. Still, I agree that each of the chapters often felt like an introduction to the topic. Wish there's been more...

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    1. I can't resist them either, and I bring way too many of them home with me. From what I understand, she has one of those pleasant voices that are just made for audiobook narration and podcasting, so I can imagine how listening to this one would be a completely different experience to reading it.

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  7. I've read similar reviews of this one, but how to include everything? Perhaps, a series of books about authors, oddities, disappointments even in books you've loved until the last chapter. Bogan could expand on this one in detail.

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    1. I think that's it, Jen. Each of her "reflections" makes a pretty good introduction to the topic in question, but that's where she stops. I agree that she could probably expand this book into something even better if she wanted to.

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  8. I can relate to all those "topics for reflection," especially the last one. I read one book after another with no intervals and sometimes they sort of blend in with each other. I have to refer to my notes to remember, "Oh, yeah, that was that one!"

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    1. That's a huge problem for me, too. I keep a spreadsheet on my phone that shows all the books I've read...the list I started 51 years ago...and another list of the series and authors I particularly enjoy these days. That way if someone asks me what I've been reading or what I would recommend, I don't sound like a fool when I can think of anything. I blame it on age more than anything else, but Bogel is just a youngster.

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  9. It sounds like one I would really like, regardless of how lightly it takes the topic.

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    1. There's a lot to like, Jeane. I did mark quite a few quotes that I thought really hit close to home, but none of those quotes were followed up by much of the "meat" I was hoping to find. That's where the tinge of disappointment comes from.

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