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So Many Books So Little Time [Hardcover]

Sara Nelson
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Oct. 14 2003
The well-known publishing correspondent and self-described "readaholic" chronicles a year spent reading-and the surprises it brought.

In early 2002, Sara Nelson-editor, reporter, reviewer, mother, daughter, wife, and compulsive reader-set out to chronicle a year's worth of reading, to explore how the world of books and words intermingled with children, marriage, friends, and the rest of the "real" world. She had a system all set up: fifty-two weeks, fifty-two books . . . and it all fell apart the first week. That's when she discovered that books chose her as much as she chose them, and the rewards and frustrations they brought were nothing she could plan for: "In reading, as in life, even if you know what you're doing, you really kind of don't."

From Solzhenitsyn to Laura Zigman, Catherine M. to Captain Underpants, this is the captivating result. It is a personal memoir filled with wit, charm, insight, infectious enthusiasm-and observations on everything from Public Books (the ones we pretend we're reading), lending trauma and the idiosyncrasies of sex scenes ("The mingling of bodies and emotions and fluids is one thing. But reading about it: now that's personal") to revenge books, hype, the stresses of recommendation (What does it mean when someone you like hates the book you love?), the odd reasons we pick up a book in the first place, and how to put it down if we don't like it ("The literary equivalent of a bar mitzvah, the moment at which you look at yourself and announce: Today I am an adult."). Throughout, So Many Books, So Little Time is pure delight-a work at once funny, wise, and rueful: enough to make a passionate reader out of anybody.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

"I have a New Year's plan," Nelson writes in the prologue to this charming diary of an unapologetic "readaholic." Her goal: to read a book a week for a year and try "to get down on paper what I've been doing for years in my mind: matching up the reading experience with the personal one and watching where they intersect-or don't." Armed with a list of books, the author, a Glamour senior contributing editor, the New York Observer's publishing columnist and a veteran book reviewer, begins her 52-week odyssey. She doesn't necessarily stick to her list, which includes classics ("the homework I didn't do in college"), books everyone's talking about (like David McCullough's John Adams) and titles as diverse as Call It Sleep, by Henry Roth, and Irvine Welsh's Trainspotting. But she succeeds in sharing her infectious enthusiasm for literature in general, the act of reading and individual books and authors. Along the way, Nelson unearths treasures. She becomes enamored of David Mura's Turning Japanese, a memoir that helps her understand her Japanese-American husband better, and looks to Henry Dunow's The Way Home, about coaching baseball, while trying to help her second-grade son improve his athletic skills. Most readers will probably come away from this love letter to books eager to pursue some of Nelson's favorites-Nora Ephron's Heartburn, perhaps, or Emma Donoghue's Slammerkin-which is what makes Nelson's reflections inspiring and worthwhile.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Self-Indulgent Oct. 3 2004
By Ez
Format:Hardcover
A reviewer spends a year writing about the books she reads, and how they fit into her life. Rather self-indulgent - why didn't I think of it first? (B+)
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4.0 out of 5 stars She reminds me what I love most about reading! July 18 2004
Format:Hardcover
It's not that I thought I was the only one, but when people ask me why I have so many books that I haven't read, then I buy more, I answer, "I'm saving them." They scratch their heads in confusion, not understanding why I have so many books in the first place. They just don't get it. But, Sara gets it.
Sara Nelson has been an editor and a reporter who has a library the size of my room. She is also a voracious reader. She looks for books that fit her "mood." She wanders around her library in her nightgown knowing exactly where every book is. (Like I do.) She talks about how she wasn't always that way. She used to go to the "Multiplex" and go dancing.
"So when did my life change? Looking back, I can see the early warning signs of readaholism, like when my mother gave me Marjorie Morningstar when I was thirteen and I pulled an all-nighter reading--and weeping over--the Herman Wouk novel." (Mine was around the same time, but not as grown up. Judy Blume's "Are you there God, it's me Margaret?" Doomed to turn any outdoor loving girl into an indoor one.)
Basically, she decided to read a book a week, and write how she felt about it. Now, this is not a book full of lists (which to me, is not a fun book to read, but more to make notes from.) This is a book that takes what she reads and she connects it to personal experience. She read books about baseball when her son was interested in baseball. She read books about Japanese Americans during WWII (because her husband is.) It makes so much sense. When I was in a bad place in a past relationship, I bought relationship books. When I was single, I bought single girl empowerment books. Now that I just want to enjoy books, I buy literature and chick-lit. Sometimes, we want to read what we know, or what we are experiencing at the time.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Smarmy July 9 2004
Format:Hardcover
I had high hopes for this book. I saw it remaindered at an outlet store and picked it up. As I flipped through the book, it didn't really grab me like I thought it would. I was still interested so I checked it out at the library instead. I'm glad I saved the money and the space on my pine shelves. This book is cold and never really warms up. The writer seems to be intent on coming across as cool and clever and maybe attempting to write something that would meet some prior self-set criteria of arch style. It doesn't work. There's promise, flickers of it, but it doesn't work. It seems forced. I suspect her true writing nature is warmer, but that's not how she really wanted it to be. Her writing here is mostly self conscious and not real. It lacks honesty, like she's trying to avoid the same criticisms that those in the know, the so-called cultural elite, (which she includes herself) level against the lowly would-be artist who doesn't measure up to their standards. Maybe it's because she's too close to the world of publishing (perhaps a reason why this was even published??). I detect an anti-writer bias in the way that a lot of people start to despise those people whose existence their life work depends on, (professors to students, doctors to patients, coaches to athletes, and really everyone in any kind of service industry. Speaking of that, how could you read Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich in that year and not comment on it? That probably says it all right there.
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5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best of the books about reading genre July 7 2004
Format:Hardcover
Books derived essentially from somebody else's reading list attract me every time, but I'm usually sorry by mid-point because they only remind me of my own reading that I'm neglecting. Or, they tell me what I already know or feel. Or they don't talk enough, they just list. Or they talk up books that aren't my thing. Sara Nelson's SO MANY BOOKS, SO LITTLE TIME is different. I enjoyed every minute of it.
Nelson is an inveterate reader, the messy kind who frequently has more than one book open at once. Her plan for the year 2002 was to read a book a week and record her reactions, or more importantly explore how the book ties into her life. The weekly entries take on a variety of themes, not to mention books, as Nelson opens up her mind and life. Books that dovetail with the issues of her life, books that distract her from the issues of her life, books that work or don't on vacation, books that call up her younger selves, books that nick into her marriage or relationships with parents, books that parent with her, books that fit a mood--she finds them all across the year. She is amazingly candid, wisecrackingly funny and often touching. She keeps the suspense going: can she keep up the pace and fulfill her goals?
In the end she and we know far more about her than about the books, but learning about oneself is part of the reading journey. I think a lot of readers will find that even if their lives and likes are different from Nelson's, they will have found a soulmate.
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5.0 out of 5 stars So many books... to add to my list June 20 2004
Format:Hardcover
There are so many things to like about this book. Firstly, it's clear that Sara is a passionate reader - this is the sort of book that makes you wish the author was a close friend that you could ring up anytime to talk about an amazing book that you'd just finished (or even one that you hated), and know that she knew exactly where you were coming from.
Secondly, there is a lot of variety here, and I have many new things to add to my list (as if it's not long enough already). She seemingly reads just about anything, and is open to new genres, styles, subjects and authors. I don't think there's anything narrow about her reading tastes (despite what others have said). She may read differently from what I do and I'm sure I could recommend her dozens of things she possibly hasn't looked at - the wealth of Australian fiction out there is just one example - but that in no way implies that her tastes are narrow.
A couple of other reviews have commented that she seemed very self-congratulatory for reading as many books as she did. This didn't come across to me at all - and besides, if a book a week was her goal and she made it, why shouldn't she congratulate herself? Who cares if some people can read more than that? It's not a competition. I wouldn't have cared if she'd read 20 books or 200 - what is valuable her is her insight into the books, into her own life, and into the obsessive nature of us book people.
And this is probably what I like most about 'So Many Books, So Little Time': it's an immensely personal journey through the reading life of one person. Sara Nelson talks about reading to her son, about her marriage (to a non-book person, horror of horrors!), about her parents and her siblings, about the difficulties of recommendation, lending books, hype...
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Only on Chapter 5 and I've bought 6 of the books!!
I am so thankful for Amazon.com used books. I could not afford to continue reading this book if I had to pay full price for the books that Sara has tempted me to buy. Read more
Published on June 11 2004 by Amanda Brookes
3.0 out of 5 stars Fun to read about a passionate reader--but limited viewpoint
The very idea of this book attracted me quite a bit. I love to read about other passionate readers, and I was very curious to see what books Nelson picked. Read more
Published on June 8 2004 by Suzanne Amara
2.0 out of 5 stars A Good Resource for Books
My attention waned while reading this book. I became very bored with her life stories and found myself skipping ahead only to read the blurbs regarding what books she had read and... Read more
Published on May 28 2004 by K. Bergherm
4.0 out of 5 stars A book for all book lovers!
I recently picked up Sara Nelson's book to read while I was working a garage sale. Before the sale was finished I was well into her book, enjoying a look into the mind of another... Read more
Published on May 24 2004 by Daryl B
5.0 out of 5 stars I am not alone
Until I read this book, I wasn't sure there were other people out there like me. I totally related to the unease Sara expressed when going on a trip and not having something to... Read more
Published on April 2 2004 by Theresa E. Miller
5.0 out of 5 stars If you love to read and always have a book in hand...
...this book is for you!!! This book is good in so many ways:
1. You can meet someone who is truly passionate about reading and wants to share her love of it with the... Read more
Published on March 28 2004 by Danielle
4.0 out of 5 stars A great book for bibliophiles
I spent my third Saturday night in a row reading until the wee hours. I read SO MANY BOOKS, SO LITTLE TIME by Sara Nelson and enjoyed it for the most part. Read more
Published on March 14 2004 by Maudeen Wachsmith
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it!
Anybody who loves books and has a sense of humor about thesmelves will love this book about a woman who tried to read a book a week for a year, and write about it. Read more
Published on March 4 2004 by Lucky
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