I’d Rather Be Reading, Anne Bogel. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2018.
Summary: A collection of essays on the reading life with its unique joys and dilemmas, by a booklover, for booklovers.
I’d Rather Be Reading is a delightful set of essays for those of us who really love books and reading. If nothing else, it tells us that we are not alone. Anne Bogel is the host of the blog Modern Mrs Darcy (A Jane Austen reference) and the “What Should I Read Next” podcast. Not only does she write and speak on reading, she is a reader, one of our tribe. She writes, “We are readers. Books are an essential part of our lives and of our life stories. For us, reading isn’t just a hobby or a pastime; its a lifestyle.” This essay collection explores the nature of reading and the quirky aspects of our reading lives that made me wonder, “have you been to my house?”
She opens with an essay on confessing your literary sins, from those unpaid library fines to the fact that you just can’t get excited about the book everyone else absolutely loves. She describes how books sometimes find us, particularly when they come up in several different, unrelated conversations in the same week. She reminds us of the books that first hooked us on stories and the books that have made us cry. In a variation of the idea that we are all the ages we have ever been, she reflects on the different readers she has been from the child who encountered A Wrinkle in Time to the twenty-something reading spiritual memoirs to the young mother rediscovering children’s books. She writes of fulfilling a fantasy of many of us booklovers to be a bookseller, at least for a day. She talks about her “inner circle” bookshelf of books by family (or those who are like family) and friends.
There are the darker sides of our love of books–the deadly sin of being “book bossy” in our recommendations of books to others (“you really should read this”). There is the quest to organize our shelves and what to do when we run out of them. She has a whole chapter on bookworm problems and the recurring thought of having more books than time and life to read them.
Even these are handled with self-deprecatory humor. The overall tone of the book is joyful–a celebration of what books and reading mean in the lives of those who are “book people.” She delights, as have others of us, in finding a “book twin.” She talks of her discovery of the delights of the “acknowledgements” pages in books (something I discovered only later in life). She concludes with an essay on reading journals and the preference to “rather be reading.”
This book came along about the time I was reading Karen Swallow Prior’s On Reading Well (my review). Both books are celebrations of the reading life, and how our books shape who we are. Prior’s book focuses literary fiction and how our reading might help us reflect on and live into different qualities of virtue. Anne Bogel’s book is a good complement. It is lighter in tone, and helps us hopeless bibliophiles laugh at ourselves, find words for why we love books so much, and know there are many others in the tribe.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.