The other day I did a stock signing at one of the many Barnes & Noble’s in San Jose. I signed my books while standing at the information desk and talking to one of the employees who was incredibly nice and helpful. “We’ll all have to read your book!” she said enthusiastically at which point her co-worker, who apparently felt it was his duty to play the ying to her yang, scoffed and said, “I won’t read it.”
He then had the good sense to look somewhat embarrassed by his extreme rudeness. I figured I’d be nice and give him an out. “It’s okay,” I said. “I know there are a lot of guys out there who aren’t really into books with the pink covers.”
Unfortunately my “out” wasn’t good enough for this idiot and so rather than take it he informed me, in a rather affected tone, that he “only read philosophy.”
At this point the nice employee looked like she was about ready to smack him and for the record if she had hauled off and hit him I would have testified that it was in self-defense. But instead she exercised restraint so I tried to follow her lead and simply offered him a tight smile and suggested that the greatest philosophers believed people should strive to be well rounded which of course you can’t be if you only read philosophy. Then I bit my tongue before adding that he should take his philosophy and stick it up his existential ass.
The disturbing part about the exchange was not this man’s unearned superiority complex but the fact that he wasn’t all that unique in his approach to literature. I’m not suggesting that there is a huge surge of philosophy reading booksellers out there but simply that there are a lot of people who only read one genre of literature. They only read Science Fiction, or Romance, or non-fiction, or literary fiction and so on and so forth. I know how busy people are (believe me, I know) and I would never suggest that someone should make the time to read something she doesn’t enjoy just so she can claim to be some kind of renaissance chick but I do think that when in a bookstore it couldn’t hurt to pick up a novel shelved in a section that you don’t normally visit, flip through it and see if maybe it’s something that might interest you. It’s really no different than periodically tuning into that “other” radio station to see if they’re playing anything that appeals to you.
On that note I have decided to allow myself a few Oprah moments. I’m going to start recommending books that I like on this blog. I’ll end some of my posts with a little blurb about a book that I like and on those many, many days when I don’t have time to write a full blog I may drop in and throw up a hit and run book recommendation post. At least that way when you check in on one of my off days you won’t feel like the energy you expelled clicking your mouse was all for naught. Some of the books I’ll mention will be chick lit and some won’t be. Out of spite I will not be recommending any philosophy. I’m afraid Nietzsche and Aristotle are on their own. You can read the books I recommend, not read the books, email me and tell me how much the books suck, whatever. I certainly encourage you to tell me what books you like because God knows I’m always looking for another good book to take with me to Starbucks. Anyway, here’s one to start with:
The Princess Bride, by William Goldman
I am the only person I know who thought the movie that was based on this novel was a letdown, that’s because I’m the only person I know who read the book first. It’s an incredibly fun tale and I’ve yet to hear anyone say they didn’t like it. I only have one little caution: Goldman wrote the book as a story within a story. He writes a very long introduction talking about his unhappy family life and how he had to abridge The Princess Bride from it’s original version written by Morgenstern in order to make it readable. Just so you know, Morgenstern doesn’t actually exist, nor does Goldman’s “ex-wife” Helen or his “son” so no need to get upset with him when he picks fun at their shortcomings. I mention this simply because while the intro is humorous and has it’s moments the actual story within the story (that would be the Princess Bride story) could easily stand on its own; so if you get bored reading the first few pages skip them and get to what Goldman affectionately refers to as the “good parts.”
That’s all for now!
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