Every Book You Ever Read…

This is something in between a book review and a reflection–a reflection prompted by a specific book.  I read The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger, after seeing it reviewed on two different blogs I follow.  It’s a very short graphic novel, almost a picture book for adults–but, despite outer appearance, not appropriate for children, mostly because of the ending.  The story follows Liz, who becomes so obsessed with reading that it takes over her life.  This begins when she encounters the Night Bookmobile, a traveling library that holds every book she has ever read, from childhood to the book she’s reading now.  The Night Bookmobile only appears sporadically, and she’s consumed with the desire to find it again.

A few quick comments on my thoughts on the book: I hated the ending, which I probably should have expected since I hated the ending (really the second half) of Niffenegger’s Time Traveler’s Wife too.  I couldn’t figure out the point–I think this was a warning about letting books consume your life, so I kept waiting for Liz to have a revelation…and instead it kind of worked out for her.  In a twisted way.  And despite her consuming obsession with the Night Bookmobile, I didn’t think she was really utilizing it to its potential; all she does when she finds it is vaguely wander the shelves and think how nice it is to see books she remembers reading.  You can do that at a library or a bookstore; you don’t need a magical bookmobile.

So much for the review part.  As to the reflection–I love the premise.  Not anything about Liz, but the idea of a magical library, mobile or otherwise, that holds everything you ever read…I want one of those!  But I wouldn’t waste time smiling at old editions of L. M. Montgomery books.  I can walk over to my own bookcase right now and do that.  I’d want to find the books I’ve forgotten about.  Or not exactly the ones I’ve forgotten–the ones I just barely remember.  The ones I read when I was six or nine or fourteen, and I remember a character or an incident or a little snatch of the plot, but not the title or the author or a character’s name.  In other words, nothing that will help me find it now.

Once a teacher read us a book aloud–it was about kids who went through a tunnel and ended up in this valley where there were cave people and dinosaurs.  They were hailed as gods and fought a T-Rex.  My family went on vacation (it was a summer program) just as we were getting to the end of the book, and the class finished it while we were gone.  So I never heard the ending, and I haven’t the faintest idea of the title.  I’ve tried a bit of Google searching, but I’ve never been able to find it.  I’d be searching the bookmobile for that one.

And I’d be in there with a pen and paper so I could write titles down.  I started keeping a  book journal my senior year of high school, and I wish I’d started a dozen or so years earlier.  The bookmobile would help me fill in a lot of gaps.

The bookmobile also has a librarian.  I’m not sure how I’d feel about that, about someone metaphorically peering over my shoulder to look at everything I read.  I’m not reading anything particularly embarrassing, but I wonder if it would make me self-conscious?  If I’d feel more of an impetus to read “impressive” things like Hardy and Dickens.  In a way I suppose it’s not unlike a book review blog–but this blog doesn’t record everything I’m reading.  I follow other bloggers who do review everything they read, so perhaps they’d know more what it would be like.

As to the theme of reading taking over your life, I’m sure it can happen, but I think it’s equally possible to be an enthusiastic reader without losing touch with the rest of the world.  I think I resent a bit the implication that reading cuts you off from the world.  I’ve bonded with and even met friends because of shared interest in books.  And reading doesn’t have to stop you from living.

I always think of reading as a way to live a thousand lives instead of just one.  Why stay only in this world when you can go to so many others?  Maybe it’s particularly apt for me because I read so much fiction, and so much of it fantasy, or otherwise very different from the world around me.  But having a rich inner book-life doesn’t mean I’m not living my outer life too.

So I didn’t particularly like The Night Bookmobile.  But it did prompt a lot of thoughts about reading.

4 thoughts on “Every Book You Ever Read…

  1. ensign_beedrill

    I’d want to find the books I’ve forgotten about. Or not exactly the ones I’ve forgotten–the ones I just barely remember.

    I was having this thought before you even mentioned it. How great that would be.

    I did a bit of googling on your book. Only thing I got was A Journey to the Center of the Earth, which may or may not be what you’re looking for.

    1. Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t A Journey to the Center of the Earth. Now that you mention it, there are some definite similarities…but I remember it was a kids’ book. Thanks for looking, though! 🙂

  2. Wow! Really thoughtful post, with lots for your readers to contemplate. I, too, like the idea of seeing again every book I ever read, to remind myself of what I was reading years ago and maybe prompt me to read one or more of those books again. That would be really cool. I recently purchased through amazon.com a series of books I read many years ago in high school and loved. They are about three inter-related families and the stories follow characters from the Revolutionary War (the first book, and by far the best) to WWII. I remembered them from long ago but could never buy them in a conventional bookstore. Amazon had them, though, and I gradually bought and re-read them. But that’s very unusual for me. I can’t remember over a long period of time a lot of the books I’ve read, though I enjoy them in the moment and take something away from each one. I am not normally a book “saver” – I pass them along when I’m finished so others can also read them. But going somewhere to see all the books I ever read would be a great concept. Guess a book journal is the only way to try to replicate that fantastical idea in real life, though.

    I also agree with you that reading can transport you to another world, or at least open up new viewpoints and information for the reader to contemplate (if not reading fiction). You CAN be an enthusiastic reader without losing touch with the real world. I think that’s less likely to happen with folks who read books than with folks who get too involved in the Internet through message boards and games. That’s where I think the virtual world takes over the real world, to the detriment of the Internet user.

    Thanks for a wonderful post!

    1. I admit, it was a very thought-provoking book! Just narratively unsatisfying… Thank YOU for such a thoughtful response! I love returning to favorite books–it’s like catching up with an old friend, or revisiting a favorite place. I like being able to find them again, in case I want to go back.

      I agree that I’ve more often seen people get caught up to an unhealthy extent in an online or virtual world–and, with perhaps some exceptions, I think most of those obsessions give a person less than a lot of reading would! But, of course, I’m biased by my own obsessions… 🙂

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