03 March 2007

It's a Library Thing

I've never been a big reader. English has always been my weakest subject, and when all my peers in AP class were discussing the merits of Brave New World, I was scraping my brain for the tidbits of "knowledge" I gleaned from CliffsNotes the night before. But then at some point in my early twenties that changed. I moved in with Z whose shelves were lined with such heavy titles as Being and Nothingness and Night. My mom started working at a bookstore and offered to contribute to a library that would ideally grow beyond various music texts and my Complete Works of Bloom County collection. And so I started reading.

Now that I am living in Belgium and forced to live with whatever I could bring in two suitcases, I have a very limited library. And Belgian bookstores have "English-language" sections that are generally restricted to bestsellers and cookbooks. So I have been borrowing from generous friends. (The same ones, mind you, that have also let me borrow microwaves, coffee makers, pillows, pots and pans . . . I'm going to own people big time when I leave in June!)

I have noticed that my interest in books has tapered off a bit this year. This probably comes from the fact, for the first time in YEARS, reading is all I do. I read about Peter Philips, early seventeenth-century music history, Eucharistic devotions in the Catholic church, the book trade in Antwerp. By the time I am done for the day my brain is drenched, and all I can do is eat my humble dinner and watch bad Australian soaps. But when the adventures of Mitch and Terri just won't do (and when the riveting Geschiedenis van Sint-Joriskerk has left some room in my brain for words), these new reads have provided perfect relief. They are heavy, satisfying books, and were both recommended by Belgian friends.
  • The Time of Our Singing, Richard Powers. A stunning book about a young man of mixed race decent who is trying to succeed as an opera singer in mid-20th-century America. The book is told through the point of view of his devoted but slightly-less-talented pianist brother.
  • Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell. An intriguing book told in six separate narratives that unfold in chronological ascending, then descending, order. The characters seem wholly unconnected at first, but gradually their relationship becomes clear in subtle, intricate ways.

If you are a big reader, you might like to check out www.librarything.com. It's a cool website in which members can post their virtual libraries. Feel free to check out mine: muziekmeisje.

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