As you can imagine, a lit major has bookshelves stuffed with all manner of books. Add to that a portion of my career devoted to teaching, with the attendant free books. And you perhaps can begin to envision places in our house--here a bookshelf, there a bookshelf. I have never counted all the books in the house, but I am quite sure there must be 500 or 600 hundred books. Oh, wait--I forgot the basement. Make that 1,000 books.
So, why buy a book twice. Well, the main reason is I decide I want to re-read a book I have already given away. I separate my books into two basic categories: keepers, and give-aways. When I loan a give-away to someone, I really don't expect or even want the book back. I urge my friends to pass the books along to yet someone else.
If I LOVE a book, and don't want to risk its never being returned to me, I don't loan it. Or, if I loan it most reluctantly, I say--PLEASE please give it back when you are done.
I have just finished reading a definite keeper book. But--and here's the catch--I read it on my Kindle. Now, one nice feature of the Kindle is that ALL books are keepers--Amazon keeps them for you, even after you have read and deleted them. But, I loved this book so much, I want the print copy. So, I will be buying it (waiting, of course, until it comes out in paperback).
I had not heard of the book Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout, until this year's Pulitzer prizes were announced. Olive Kitteridge won for fiction. One of the other nominees is A Plague of Doves, by Louise Erdrich, which sits on my waiting to be read shelf. I figured, if Olive Kitteridge won over a novel by Louise Erdrich--who I love as an author--then Olive Kitteridge must be some book.
So I ordered it for the Kindle. And read it voraciously. And LOVED it! Just loved it. Here's the New York Times review of Olive Kitteridge. The work is a collection of 13 short stories that form a novel of sorts. For comparison sake, the work reminds me of one of my all-time favorite works--Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio. Like Winesburg, Ohio, Olive Kitteridge is set in a small town. Where Winesburg is obviously in Ohio, Olive Kitteridge is set in a small town in Maine.
Like Winesburg's residents, the residents of Crosby, Maine, lead desperate quiet lives. One of my favorite stories in Winesburg, Ohio features a spinster who keeps waiting for a beau who is never going to return. One night, she can stand her lonely life no more, and when it begins to rain, she strips and runs out into the street naked. She thinks the rain will somehow renew her. Ironically, the only person she encounters is a deaf bum who stumbles about. She tries to make contact with him, but in his deafness, all he can say is "What?"
The characters in Olive Kitteridge have that kind of desperation. The title character Olive is not particularly likeable, but she grabs your heart, nevertheless, and engages you. At one point, when she encounters an anorexic teen, she tells the teen that she breaks Olive's heart, because she--Olive--is starving. Since Olive has been described as a large woman, the reader recognizes that Olive does not mean physical hunger--but emotional hunger.
This novel is definitely ONE terrific read--and I heartily recommend it.