I love reading. As a kid, I can remember my mom expressing frustration over buying me a new Mandy book which I devoured within hours of it entering the house. Why did she bother buying me books, she said, when I read through them so fast?
Today, I’m living in a two-room extended stay hotel with my husband and three young boys as we try to find a house to rent or buy in the Richmond, Virginia area. To say that I’m bored out of my mind is an obvious understatement. We recently make a quick stop into a local Goodwill store to stock up on some inexpensive reads. In doing so, I discovered some classics that I had always wanted to read, but had never taken the time, as well as some more recent trendy books that I would never have paid full price for. I grabbed a pile of books and dove in.
The first book I read was The Bridges of Madison County, by Robert James Waller and first published in 1992. Frankly, I knew nothing about it except that it had been a movie which I thought starred Robert Redford and Barbara Streisand (I’ve since learned that it actually starred Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep, so it might actually be worth watching since Clint also directed it). Is Bridges a modern American Classic? Mmmm… perhaps I’m not qualified to declare it as such, but it seemed like a worthy read, and it was the shortest of the books I had selected, so I cracked it open first.
Not really knowing anything about the story, I had no expectation of what I would find between the covers, except for a PG-13 excerpt on the back dust cover. It only took two days of driving around town hunting down houses (just to clarify-my husband, Tom, did the actual driving) to finish the book.
The book was… okay. I was more forgiving of what I would call poor story telling because the author using the first chapter to detail the events that led to him writing this story. I’ll admit that I was taken in by his assertion that the story was real, that the grown children of one of the story’s main characters had come to him with their dead mother’s diaries and mementos, asking him to share with the world her tragic story of love denied. I bought it, hook, line, and sinker– until I Googled photographer Robert Kincaid.
When Bridges was first published in 1992, the world wide web was in its very infancy. Those were the days of AOL and chat rooms and internet-by-the-minute. There was no Wikipedia or Snopes or book review blogs. The common man had no tools at his disposal with which to do their own fact checking. Yet, here we are, 18 years later. A whole new age of technology. Had Wallers published his book today, it might never have seen the light of day. He may have had to self-publish, or his story might have been released on only an electronic version. He probably wouldn’t have been able to sell the movie rights to his book, since on-line blogging and facebook Virtual Bookshelf reviews would have been critical of the premise of the story. My, how times have changed.
But it got me to thinking: where are the book reviews for those books of the non-technological age? New books are marketed everywhere, but what about those books published twenty or more years ago? Oh, you’re sure to find information on the classics, but what about the everyday, reading-for-entertainment books that one would now find on the shelves of their neighborhood thrift store?
So that is what I want to accomplish with this blog. Here I will share with you the older books I read and whether they might be worth your taking the time to scour dusty shelves to track down a copy for yourself. In a time of Kindles and iPads, it may be worthwhile to dust off the neglected covers of forgotten stories, breath in the scent of musty pages, and rediscover the books that perhaps were never quite discovered. I’ll also review newer titles, and would love your recommendations.