I'd Rather Be Reading: A Library of Art for Book Lovers
by Guinevere de la Mare

Chronicle Books, 2017. ISBN 978-1-452-15511-1.
Reviewed by Mary Ann Moore
Posted on 12/20/2017

Nonfiction: Creative Life

I'd Rather Be Reading is a lovely little volume with essays by Maura Kelly, Ann Patchett and Gretchen Rubin along with poems, quotations, photographs and amazing illustrations from various sources. Quotations that celebrate books and reading include those by L. M. Montgomery, Jane Austen and Oscar Wilde. The calligraphy and illustration with the Oscar Wilde quote are by Lisa Congdon. Emily Dickinson and Elizabeth Barrett Browning are among the poets featured.

One of my favourite illustrations is a two-page spread of books by Shakespeare from a book I happen to own: Ideal Bookshelf by Jane Mount. A fascinating photograph is one by Philippa Stanton who has included a row of well-worn Penguin paperbacks in faded orange along with an assortment of small orange objects in what could have been a printer's box of type. It's a unique photo collage.

Guinevere de la Mare's essay, "The Autobiography of a BookWorm," describes her kindergarten years when she rebelled against reading until she saw the other kids could do something she couldn't. The author owes her love of reading to her grandmother and Mrs. Schmidt, the teacher who let de la Mare lead her "rebellion unfettered." Now de la Mare has a young son and every home he visits is filled with books. He's not reading on his own yet "but it's in his blood." Reading an essay like this will remind readers of their own reading journey through school days and adulthood through to the time when they introduce their favorite books to their own children perhaps.

Maura Kelly's contribution is "A Slow Books Manifesto" in which she poses the question in relation to the "slow" food movement: "I'm all for efforts like these. But why so much emphasis on what goes into our mouths and so little in what goes into our minds?" Kelly is calling for a Slow Books Movement during which, she proposes, readers "aim for thirty minutes a day, of reading "a meaningful work of literature." That sounds like an excellent idea to me!

In "Cheating" by Ann Patchett, the author was asked by an interviewer to list her twenty-five favorite books and answer some questions. The cheating aspect is that she figured her answers would be a good post for the blog she writes for her bookstore, Parnassus Books. That actually gives me a good idea too! I couldn't help but think of what my favorite books have been through the years (I keep lists of all I've read) and I wanted to answer the questions posed to Patchett. She was asked several questions including: What are you reading right now? What was your favorite children's book? Why? What book do you most often reread? Why?

In "Thirteen tips for Getting More Reading Done," Gretchen Rubin says she has hundreds of "happiness-project resolutions" and one of them is a habit she's tried to form: "read more." Her first tip is to Quit Reading. She means that as there are so many "wonderful books to read," there's no need to finish every book you start. I've been one to finish books no matter what. But as I've aged, I have realized there's no use plodding through when there are indeed, many wonderful books to read.

People who love books and reading will enjoy this charming book. And perhaps it would be a good idea for we keen readers to give a copy of I'd Rather Be Reading to those who have been pulled away by modern distractions. It would be a fine way to introduce them to the pleasures of books and reading.

Guinevere de la Mare is a writer, book lover, community organizer, and the founder of Silent Book Club, a pop-up speaking-easy for readers around the world. She lives in San Francisco. Visit her website.

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