Friday, March 21, 2008

I Love Books!!

Our guest blogger today is Tina Jordan, senior editor/book reviewer for Entertainment Weekly.

I love books. As a senior editor at Entertainment Weekly—one who writes book reviews and edits book features—I'm immersed in the publishing world, and my office is inundated with galleys and books. My house, too is full of books—great teetering piles in places, in fact, since we ran out of bookshelf space long ago. Books are often found crammed between couch cushions, beneath the ottomans, under the desk in the study. I'm no highbrow snob, either. Heck, on the right day, I like Emily Griffin as much as John Updike. And yet, the older I get (let's just say an important birthday is looming) the harder it seems to be to find books to swoon over. The ones that keep me up late turning the pages. The ones that lkeep me glued to the couch, ignoring my family for hours on end (if one of my teenagers gallops into the room, I look up a trifle resentfully and say, "Yes?").

So why is that? Why is it that I don't find as much that utterly, completely thrills me, that sends me over the edge? I don't think I'm jaded or cynical. I don't deplore the state of publishing or wring my hands over the quality of what's written today. Sure, I like a lot of what I read. Sometimes I like it a lot. And I know exactly which book last made me weak in the knees: the new Elizabeth George novel, Careless in Red, coming out in May. For those of you who haven't read her mysteries, well, I could write an entire column about her. Suffice it to say her books are intelligent, complex, and deeply, hugely satisfying. Reading one is like realizing that I'm ravenous, I haven't eaten in days, and I can't gulp down the pages fast enough.

So when the galley for Careless in Red arrived at my office, I felt a frisson of excitement. Like all Elizabeth Georges, it is enormous, an absolute doorstopper; I started reading that night when I got on my train in Grand Central, nearly missed my stop 40 minutes later, and, once home headed straight up to the bedroom, followed by a gaggle of dachshunds and kids. When I finally had some peace, I dove back in. I put it down, reluctantly, a little after midnight (can't stay up as late as I used to!), and picked it up the next morning around six when I made some coffee. It was a Saturday, and I put all the usual weekend fun—laundry, housecleaning, grocery shopping—on hold, raptly turning the pages, occasionally sipping some cooling coffee. By the time the girls were up I'd finished, closing the galley with a happy sigh. That was two weeks ago, and Careless in Red is still vivid, some of its passages imprinted in my mind. George's Scotland Yard characters, so familiar to me after many books, are old friends by now, so I ache for Thomas Lynley, whose wife was murdered, and Barbara Havers, as scraggly and socially inept as ever.

Who knows why I find fewer Careless in Reds than I used to? If this were a proper essay, I'd have mulled this over and come up with all kinds of smart reasons. But I do a lot less smart reasoning than I used to. No, I've decided there's nothing to do but savor those special books when I DO find them. Right now, the new Benjamin Black is at the top of my nightstand stack, beckoning me. Right underneath is the new Jesse Kellerman. Then there's a novel that looked good, The Girl Who Stopped Swimming. All of them look terrific. (But no dutiful plowing-through for me—if I detest a book, I just toss it aside.) It's likely I'll enjoy all three of those novels. And maybe—if I'm really, really lucky—one of them will tickle that elusive place in my brain, and, addict that I am, I'll be consumed by a book once again.

Tina Jordan

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