Every Saturday morning, as the New York Times lands with a thwack on my porch, I race toward the front door in such a hurry you’d think the neighborhood squirrels were notorious for filching the Old Gray Lady. But no, I am less anxious about Theft by Rodent than I am to tear into the weekly Book Review, discarding all manner of world news, business stories, and sports nonsense that threaten to slow my access.
Once settled into the couch, tea clutched in my page-free hand, I nod thoughtfully as I dog-ear the review of books I plan to check out from the library. Ah yes, a book about the theological debates of Erasmus and Luther. A modern take on good ol’ Shakespeare. A tome that purports to tell me all I need to know about the British Empire in the 1800s.
As my hands dutifully flag pages, I can sense that at least one of my eyebrows is raised; even my face is skeptical of my intent. I’m guilty of the literary equivalent of having “eyes bigger than my stomach.” For as much as I’d like to be a “serious reader,” a lover of Big Books and Bigger Ideas, I am, in my deepest heart of hearts, the type of reader who plows through mysteries with cats on the cover.
This isn’t to say I always fall short of the reader I want to be. Mike Wallace’s hulk-of-a-history of New York City in the early 20th century was—I kid you not—gripping. Joshua Jelly-Schapiro’s recent look at Island People: The Caribbean and the World is poignant as it was poetic. And I just made it through a Finnegan’s Wake course at the Rosenbach intact. Barely.
But more often than not, you’ll find my face behind the cover of a cozy mystery; a humorous and/or celebrity-driven memoir (the “and” is much preferred to the “or” in this scenario); a historical fiction pick that swings between, say, a woman in the 1950s and her modern-day equivalent. (It’s a thing, Trust me.)
And in this, I’ve found my happiest of professional spaces. Librarians are the least judgmental and most encouraging folks you’re ever likely to encounter. “The new biography of Nixon came in,” they might say to my better angels, “but if you’re looking for something light, I also have that mystery set in a donut shop: The Cruller Caper.”*
*Note: This is not a real book, but absolutely should be.