It’s that time of year again: ‘best books of 2012’ lists are popping up on every blog, website, magazine, and newspaper I read. December, January, and February are months for reflections, compilations and awards, and yet for me they often seem to induce guilt. There are so many books and so little time. How did I get through another good year for books while reading so few? If I look at statistics that I’ve kept on my blog, I’ve read nearly 70 books this year from a wide variety of genres. Seventy books is a lot and yet it is only a tiny drop in the vast sea of books existing in the world today.
For the first half of this year I worked as a librarian in a public library and I have now spent six months working in the circulation department of an academic library. In some ways, my regular perusal of Publishers’ Weekly and Library Journal and the carts of books that surround me each day at work have dulled my appetite for reading, much like the employees of a chocolate shop who must inevitably become desensitized to their wares lest they risk perpetual indigestion. On the other hand, working among so many tantalizing options sometimes produces a sort of frenzied anxiety within me: how can I pass up reading so many interesting things when they are sitting there waiting for me every day?
Equally as strong as my desire to simply possess the knowledge enclosed in all those lovely books is my desire to be the person who is cool enough to have read all of them. Yes, I know that this mystical person doesn’t exist, but who among us has not had the experience of being the lone person in the room who hasn’t read Moby Dick or The Sun Also Rises? My first brush with imposter syndrome occurred, naturally, in a graduate program studying literature. Like many graduate students I became adept at talking about books I’d never read and films I’d never watched. Yes, I did get around to filling in some of the holes in my knowledge, but there are still some classics of the canon that I’ve never read.
Then I started working in a library and realized that, contrary to popular perception, librarians don’t actually know everything. They’re just really good at finding everything. Sure it was great to recommend books based on what I had read, but I also learned how to use review databases, booklists, sites like GoodReads, and my coworkers to talk about books. I don’t have to have read everything—that’s just impossible. I think sometimes this is a hard concept for me because I love to read all kinds of things. Though, if I think about it, I do have topics and genres I prefer above others. I’m not a big fan of speculative fiction or horror, most romance books don’t do a lot for me, and I have no interest in reading about sports. Right now I read a lot of contemporary literary fiction, historical fiction, and nonfiction about history or social issues. One of the fun things about working in a library is that you can associate with people who care about all kinds of books.
One thing I do care about is LDS literature, and I’m afraid that this year I have been failing miserably in my attempts to show how much I care by reading books. This is when I shamefully confess that I have not yet read anything by Stephen Peck, I haven’t read Millstone City yet, and I’ve barely thought about The Five Books of Jesus , The Unlikely Gift of Treasure Bloom and The Roots of the Olive Tree. Not to mention new things by some of my favorite authors like Dean Hughes, Carla Kelly, and Melanie Jacobson. I feel the most guilt about falling behind with new LDS fiction because failure to read it before December 31st means I cannot nominate it for a Whitney Award. There are three weeks left in the year, so I guess I could still give it a go and do my part. I invite you to do yours. No, you can never read all the books. But read a few LDS books from 2012 and hop over to the Whitney Nominations site. You’ll feel better about yourself if you do.
This is when I confess that I’ve never read Moby Dick, The Great Gatsby, or The Chronicles of Narnia. I’ve also never seen a James Bond movie or watched any version of Star Trek. What literary sins of omission have you committed? Have you nominated anything for the Whitneys yet?