Title: One For the Books
Author: Joe Queenan
Genre/Audience: Memoir, nonfiction, adult
Publication: Viking Adult, 2012
Joe Queenan is a writer who is obsessed with books and reading. This is an account of his book love, describing various roles books have played in his life, his (sometimes strange) reading habits, and book collection. It also touches on his youth, family, friends, and life, and details a variety of his “bookish” experiences throughout his lifetime.
I had been really interested in reading this book since I first heard about it last year, and finally got around to reading it. I think us book obsessed people are a rare breed, and I was eager to glimpse into the life of a fellow book obsessed person.
Joe Queenan has strange and interesting reading habits that were pretty amusing to read about: reading upwards of 20 books at one time, reading the same book for many years, refusing to read any book that has been called “astonishing,” etc. While these are not my specific reading habits, I’m sure every single one of us book lovers have our own set of reading habits that may baffle others. Joe has also calculated the number of books he thinks he will be able to read before his death, and therefore plans accordingly, and has placed limitations on what he will read so that he can get through all the books he really wants to before he dies. I’ll be honest – I’ve also calculated the number of books I think I’ll be able to read in my life, and I worry that there is NO WAY I will ever be able to read all the books I want to read. This upsets me, but what can you do? So, in that sense, I liked being able to relate to Joe and having that feeling that I’m not alone or crazy in my bookish obsessions and pursuits. Joe knows that books = happiness, which I really appreciate. I also really enjoyed the various passages Joe included about libraries, and his sad feelings about book stores closing. Most people don’t care about that kind of stuff, but it breaks our hearts, doesn’t it? He was also quite sarcastic and witty, and I love me some funny people, that’s for sure. Oh, and Joe is also a HUGE e-reader hater, which made me laugh at times. There were quite a few instances where he pointed out all the things/experiences that e-readers prevented, and this made me think of my friend, Sarah Says Read, which made me smile. 🙂 I could definitely see where he was coming from as I am not a huge e-reader fan myself. I’ll admit, I have a Kindle, but I much prefer real books to e-books, sorry people!
On the other hand, I was kind of annoyed at times by Joe’s pretentious attitude. He refuses to read some books for ridiculous reasons, like not reading books by authors who are New York Yankees fans because he hates the Yankees. Listen, I don’t care what people read, but I do care when people are judgmental, and I got that sense from Joe. I also felt that he looked down on people for reading books that he did not consider to be high quality literature. Again, I don’t care what people read, as long as they’re reading, and that may the librarian in me coming out, or it may just be me choosing not to be judgmental or pretentious.
So all in all, I’m a bit torn about this book. It had some great moments and thoughts that made me either chuckle or say, “YEAH! Me too!” I liked that about this book. At the same time, I wasn’t a fan of how Joe came off through his writing, so I really think that reactions to this book will be mixed. I’d say it was worth my time to read it, and I enjoyed it, but it was not my favorite. I’ve included some really great quotes from the book below though. Sorry I don’t have page numbers on them.
My Rating: 3/5
Quotes to Keep:
“I believe that serious, or let us say obsessive, readers all have some sort of clock or meter running in our heads. We have a rough idea of how long we expect to live, and we have structured our reading habits accordingly.”
“Libraries may not turn a huge profit, true. But no library system I know of has ever required a multitrillion-dollar bailout to keep the global economic system from collapsing.”
“Only in libraries do people stay in the same place for so long; even churches and urban crime syndicates move the personnel around. I have always felt that there is something courageous about librarians. Because the staff is asked to man the same barricades in the same fortress for so many years – in Edith’s case, forty-five – the library becomes a community touchstone, a faint beacon of light that survives calamity after calamity as the darkness of contemporary American culture threatens to extinguish it. Librarians are always there when you come back to visit, almost as if they were expecting you.”
“I grew up poor, and lots of times we had no food. Lots of times we had no heat. Lots of times we had no television. But we always had books. And books put an end to our misfortune.”
“Books are in my line of vision at all hours of the day and night. When you walk into my house, the first thing you see is books, and this is equally true when you enter my office[…]. There are books in the garage, in the basement, in the attic, in the Camry, and in the Sienna. There are books everywhere, and with few exceptions they are very good books.”
“Reading is intensely personal.”
“A reading life, a friend once told me, is an adventure without maps where you meet unexpected soulmates along the way.”
“The reading life I have described has been thrilling for me, but I am willing to concede that people like me are as mad as hatters. Perhaps madder. We have invented a way of dealing with the world that works for us, but it will not work for everyone. The presence of books in my hands, my home, my pockets, my life will never cease to be essential to my happiness.”
“Reading is the way mankind delays the inevitable. Reading is the way we shake our fists at the sky. As long as we have these epic, improbable reading projects arrayed before us, we cannot breathe our last: Tell the Angel of Death to come back later; I haven’t quite finished Villette. This is, I believe, the greatest gift that books give to mankind.”