i don’t buy everything i read/i haven’t even read …

i don’t buy everything i read/i haven’t even read everything i’ve bought

Speaking of books and reading, I went to the University bookstore the other day to return three textbooks and buy two more instead. I walked out of there with not only the two textbooks, but also four books from the Comparative Literature and English aisles. No, I’m not enrolled in any English or Comparative Literature courses this quarter, but I couldn’t resist wandering through those aisles anyway. This is becoming a bad habit. Actually, it has been a bad habit for years. Is there a twelve-step program for bookworms? The first step is admitting one has a problem, or so they say.

Hi, my name is Yasmine, and I have a problem.
So where do I go from here?

Anyway, my collection of books, though seemingly overwhelming, is actually quite carefully selected. For years, I’ve made it a general rule to buy only those books which I’ve already read and enjoyed enough to warrant my own copy. That day at the University bookstore, I bought:

Selected Poems, Unabridged, by Paul Laurence Dunbar
Educating Esmé: Diary of a Teacher’s First Year, by Esmé Raji Codell
Danny the Champion of the World, by Roald Dahl
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott

I actually broke my usual rule here, because Bird by Bird was a book I’d neither read nor heard of ’til that day. But I stood there flipping through the pages for so long that I decided I might as well buy my own copy. It’s a beautiful book, well-written and thought-provoking, amusing and poignant all at once. I haven’t even been reading it in my usual fashion: So far, I’ve read the last chapter, and parts of the thirty-page introduction, but only bits and pieces and random sentences in between. Somehow, it seems more fitting that way.

Only very rarely do I recommend books to people – not only because I don’t personally know anyone else who shares my love of reading, but also because I simply can’t be bothered to give book recommendations. Those who truly love books will always find books that interest and inspire them. Those who don’t – well, to be honest, I couldn’t care less. I’m impatient and selfish like that.

But if you deeply enjoy writing, or if you want to enjoy writing but don’t know what the hell you’re doing, or if you detest writing but are willing to change your stance, then I recommend you read Bird by Bird.

[p.s. Someday, I will own all the Norton Anthologies ever published. I will, I will, oh yes, I will. Just you wait.]

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