The book was Double Trouble by Carol Morse, a 1964 teen comedy that I inherited from my mother—though she was in her 20s when it came out, so I'm not sure how she ended up owning it or passing it along to me. At some point I misplaced her copy or gave it away, thinking I wouldn't miss it, and then I missed it; after years of searching—do you know how many books are called Double Trouble?—I finally found it on AbeBooks a couple of months ago and gladly snatched it up. It's about boy-crazy twin girls learning how to be their own people and have their own feelings and interests instead of doing everything together. They live in a generic small American town that out-Pleasantvilles Pleasantville, and their lives are wholly unlike anything I have ever known. I first read it with absolute fascination in the 1980s, feeling as though I were doing research on a foreign country. It seems even more alien now. (Though this time around I spotted the lesbian, English teacher Miss Winifred Lawrence, who never felt like herself until she went to an all-girls school where people started calling her Larry. She's also tough as a teacher but nice once you get to know her, and the narrative goes out of its way to establish her as an outdoorsy, sturdy world traveler. Mm-hmm. She felt familiar, an un-strange person in their strange self-contained land.)
There was no purpose to me reading it, except that I was glad to own it again and wanted to see whether it still gave me that feeling of fascinated curiosity, which it does.
I hadn't realized how much the notion of a to-read pile/shelf/list was pinning me down. I feel free.
Tonight I showed X the cute gay couple episode of Tidying Up ("I feel like I was just punched in the face by niceness," they said), and then we turned around and considered the bookcase behind us.
( The right-now book )
( Categories of maybe-keep-maybe-not books )
Categorizing the books in this fashion made it easy to pull down a dozen or so and send them on their merry way. X reminded me not to do too much tonight—I have a cold (again) and have been sleeping very badly (again) and that's not ideal for this sort of emotional task—so I channeled my tidying urges into trimming the extremely large mattress-type tags off our new dining chair cushions and agreeing with X and J that we should get rid of our coat tree, which is huge and space-occupying in a non-useful way.
And now I'm going to to take a long hot bath and read High Stakes, because it said "Read me now!" and there is no better reason to read a book.
EDIT: It was just as good as I remember, and I had forgotten enough of the plot to get very tense in a few places and appreciate how it all went down. Absolutely an A+ keeper—I may have to wait another 20 years to forget the plot again, but when I want to read it I will be very glad to have it to hand.
Analog Science Fiction & Fact magazine (Nov/Dec 2018 issue) posted the digital file, so if you'd like to read it (and the other finalists for the various categories who gave permission), check out the pdf: X
Winners are announced at a breakfast ceremony during Nebula Awards Weekend, so I guess I’m going to the Nebs this year. (If I win, this would be my first major writing award. SO EXCITED!)
(art by Eldar Zakirov - my edit of the original cover art with the banner overlaid)
Last year I took a stab at studying Hebrew, and all it made me think was "I miss studying kanji". So at the start of this year, I reinstalled the Wanikani app on my phone, and since then I've been reliably doing 30 to 60 minutes a day of kanji study. It's really satisfying and fun. If I miss doing it in the morning, I leap at my first chance to do it in the evening.
For the past several years I've been saying "I miss reading books" (by which I meant fiction, as that's always been my focus as a reader). So at the start of this year, I put a short story collection on my phone that I'd been meaning to read, and since then I've occasionally spent 10 or 15 minutes reading that book. (But only when I was on the subway, because Wanikani's app is really just an interface for the website and doesn't work offline.) When I finished it, I didn't put another book on my phone.
( I'm starting to think I don't actually miss reading books. )
So here is who I am today, ( and what that implies for my book collection )
The purpose of a book is to be read. A book sitting on my shelves going unread for years isn't happy and isn't bringing anyone else happiness. I do the world a favor by putting those books into the hands of people who will read them. I do myself a favor by clearing the wall of never-to-be-read books out from between me and the books I actively want to (re)connect with.
To facilitate choosing books, I should narrow down my choices. It's much easier to choose from among a few hundred books than among a few thousand. I'm not used to thinking of a few hundred books as a lot, but right now I read 20 books a year if I'm lucky. A few hundred books would last me a long while even if there weren't great new books coming along all the time, which of course there are. I'm aware enough of that to feel overwhelmed when I look at crowded shelves. I need to be aware enough of it to prune ruthlessly until the books on my shelves feel interesting and exciting, not exhausting. If "someday" does come, I can buy more books then, or take them out from the library. Until then, less is more.
The purpose of a library is to facilitate reading. It should be constructed with the reader in mind. I need to understand what kind of reader I am now in order to make my library a library that makes me want to read, that builds on the way I read now: spontaneously but with focus at home, and in occasional moments out in the world.
To facilitate spontaneous reading at home, I think I need to have not just a to-read shelf but a designated next print book, or maybe a next fiction book and a next Judaism book and a next project book (no more than that). I should choose these at a time when I'm in a planning mood, so that when I'm in a reading mood I can just grab one of the designated next books and start reading it. Putting them on a shelf at eye level and facing them out will encourage me to see them and think about whether this might be a good time to read them. Plus I'll get to enjoy the art on their covers (which I realize I almost never see on books I own). Also, I should finish rearranging my room, because the plan is to move Kit's loveseat-size rocking chair in there and have it facing two bookcases, with a standing lamp nearby, to create a little reading nook right where I spend the most time.
To facilitate occasional reading out of the house, I should have my digital next book on my phone and loaded into the app and waiting, and put the app shortcut right next to the Wanikani and Empires & Puzzles shortcuts.
And maybe I still won't read. Time will still be tight, focus will still be scattered. But I hope that taking this approach will improve my odds. Because I do miss reading books. That just means something very different from what I thought it meant.