Monday, March 16, 2009

What I'm Going to Read on My Summer Vacation

Already halfway through March (hooray!), I've started dreaming of warmer days to come, driving with my window down, and of course, my upcoming summer vacation in July. Being one of the members of the Odyssey's First Edition Club committee and starting our new Breakout Fiction program, I don't always get the chance to read everything I want to, and since many, many a book need to be read FOR work (even though I love the process), I often feel guilty taking a break to read solely for myself. My colleague and friend, Emily Crowe, aptly refers to this as "bookseller guilt."

There must be at least 50 books in my immediate "to-be-read pile" which I've had to be put aside because I'm constantly reading for our First Edition Club and Breakout Fiction Program. The books in this pile are either: non-fiction and therefore ineligible, published 6 years ago, or were written by authors we were unable to schedule for an appearance.

However, I have promised myself that during the 10 days I am in Maine this July, I will read SOLELY for myself and therefore the First Edition Club/Breakout Fiction Program will just have to take a backseat! Below is a tentative list of some real goodies I've missed.

1) Jhumpa Lahiri's UNACCUSTOMED EARTH. This latest collection of stories from Lahiri has been on my bookshelf taunting me since last April. We tried everything to get her to come to the Odyssey, but as you can imagine, she's in high demand.

2) Junot Diaz's THE BRIEF WONDROUS LIFE OF OSCAR WAO. When I started at the Odyssey about a year and a half ago, the store had just picked this as their September First Edition Club selection. Alas, I had to start reading for the November/December selections and never had the chance to pick this one up. I get mocked by fellow booksellers almost daily.

3) Marilynne Robinson, HOME. Marilynne rarely travels to do events, so this one was put on the back-burner for a little while.

4) Roberto Bolano, 2666. This one's a monster in size, and who knows if I'll be able to get to it, PLUS everything else I want to get through, but hey, I'll try.

5) Ethan Canin, AMERICA, AMERICA. Met this author at the 2008 Winter Institute. He's a sweetheart. I really want to read his book, as his writing has been compared to the great Richard Russo.

6) Richard Price's LUSH LIFE. Having lived in New York City for five years and hearing stories of the Lower East Side/East Village in the 1980s, I'm extremely curious about this one.

7) Brock Clarke, AN ARSONIST'S GUIDE TO WRITERS' HOMES IN NEW ENGLAND. My dad is a writer, we live in New England. Enough said.

And finally, just to torture myself, I received a copy of Thomas Pynchon's AGAINST THE DAY for Christmas about three years and I WILL read it. As if Bolano's 2666 isn't enough, I know.

What scares (and thrills) me, however, is that I've heard word that this fall is one of the best literary line-ups in recent years. I know that come May, when I return from Book Expo America in New York, I'm going to be coming home with fifty new galleys, all clamoring for my attention and the above plans will be shot to heck. I'm tempted to set rules for myself and vow not to read anything published before April 2008, but I have a feeling those rules will be broken as soon as I start packing my suitcase for Maine.

Oh well, a bookseller can dream, can't she?

Emily Russo Murtagh

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