Awash in a Sea of Books

 [written very, very late a few nights ago.]

I shouldn’t be up right now. I should have been asleep hours ago. But I couldn’t. I’m in the grip of a book.

Sometimes I was a kid I used to walk along the bookshelves in the children’s section, running my hand along the spines, waiting for a book to give off a…something. A tingle, a buzz, a call, a sense that this was the right book for me to read right then. And sometimes, I swear I felt it. Maybe it was just a good design, a color, a font, a word in the title that caught my attention. Or maybe it was something else, not so easily explained..

Sometimes it’s like that still; sometimes not. There are rhythms to reading, just as there are to anything else. I’d been floundering for weeks when I picked up The Pinhoe Egg, unable to find anything that really captured my interest, skimming along on New Yorkers and blog posts, and I forced my mind to focus on it despite frequent distractions, because it’s a Young Reader’s Choice Award title and I needed to read one, and because I love Diana Wynne Jones and her Chrestomanci novels, and how she makes magic and its practitioners seem everyday and ordinary and funny and this was a new one about Cat, the nine-lifed enchanter who’s both incredibly powerful and charmingly unassuming,. And after a while I was pulled in solidly, reading through meals and at breaks at work and sorry to leave that world when it was over.

Then White Sands, Red Menace came in on hold. I read the first book about these characters, The Green Glass Sea, last year, skeptical at first about whether it was going to be one of those books that grownups think are so beautifully written but that don’t have much to offer kids, but it’s not; beautifully written, yes, that, and also about an Important Historical Topic, but Ellen Klages doesn’t bog down in that; she keeps you caring about these two girls, Dewey and Suze, all the while the weight of the historical moment—the time just after explosion of the first atomic bomb in Hiroshima--hovers above and all around them. The first book leads up to that momen and the second reels in its impact, as do both girls, and Suze’s parents. But they’re still teenagers negotiating their way in the world, awkwardly and messily and sometimes comically, and I was glad to spend time with them again the way I’d be happy to see friends after summer vacation.

But before I’d even finished that book, The Hunger Games came in, and I swear when I plucked it off the reserve shelf I felt that feeling, that tingle. I’m not immune to buzz, and maybe that was it, because I’ve read enough rave reviews of this book already. But now I’m in the midst of it, right there with Katniss in the brutal and murderous Games that are part “Survivor,” part gladiators and lions, part…I don’t know what. It’s reminding me of dystopias and survival stories and coming-of-age tales from back to my own adolescence all the way up to last year: House of Stairs and Rite of Passage and Hatchet and the Uglies series, and the author Suzanne Collins’s own earlier book, Gregor the Overlander, and even dystopic adult stories like Oryx and Crake and The Lottery, and yet it’s entirely its own. I had to stop reading halfway through when my eyes started to droop, because I was afraid I’d get impatient and start skipping through to the end, and I don’t want to ruin it for myself.

So I have to stop writing soon, and get some sleep. Because I have to pace myself; all my holds are coming in at once. Starclimber, the third book in the alternate-world series about Matt the airship cabin boy, that started with Airborn, is sitting on my night table, and I know someone else will be waiting for it when I’m done. And I just got the e-mail notice that Paper Towns, John Green’s newest young adult novel, is waiting for me on the reserve shelf, and I don’t think he is capable of writing a book that doesn’t have at least the minimum daily requirement of Awesome.

I know this wave will end, eventually. It always does, now that I’m a grownup with a hundred competing distractions. But for now, I’m riding the current, in my element.

And maybe I’ll just read one more chapter of The Hunger Games before I go to sleep…

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Hi Els!

I was wandering around the internet, and stumbled across your Awash in a Sea of Books. Yay more talking about fun books! Good onya, our universe needs more of that.

As an author and cartoonist myself, I thought I should say hello, and point you toward my website! Here's hoping mine is the sort of humor you enjoy, and that you'd like to share what I do with all your readers!

My name is Ray Friesen, I write and draw a series of humor adventure graphic novels (chock full of pirates and penguins and all sorts of silly things). My first, ' A Cheese Related Mishap' was one of the American Library Association's Top Ten Graphic Novels of the Year for Kids! (my books are aimed at children, but adults who have a inner child are fans as well). A free first chapter preview of all my books (including 'YARG!' 'Another Dirt Sandwich' and the forthcoming 'Cupcakes of DOOM!) as well as my weekly webcomic are all available at my website, Get yourself addicted! If you like to laugh, giggling is guaranteed.

Thanks very much! If you are inclined to talk about me on your blog after this, I'd like to do anything possible to help! If you do interviews, I'm available, if you need pictures, anything on my site is up for grabs, and if you have any special requests, I'd love to help in anyway I can! I like to spread the love, but not too thin or else you can't taste it.


Yeah right, just one more chapter before bed... did you finish the book?

Congratulations, Els. Those awash in great books times are SO much fun. And I'm glad to hear that the third book about Matt the cabin boy is available.

I just bought Graceling and The Dragonfly Pool, both of which I've heard raves about, and sound right up my alley. A happy thing, for sure, that sense of plenty.

Jen--Thanks! I LOVED The Dragonfly Pool so I wish you bon voyage.

Charlotte--What do you think? ;-)

Ray--thanks for commenting; I'll keep the books in mind.

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