Little Free Book

Photo by Madalyn Cox on Unsplash

Occasionally someone will ask me how I choose what to read. It’s a hard question to answer, because there’s no overriding pattern to my choices.

One book group meets once a month, the other every other month. That makes about eighteen books that are chosen for me, unless I’ve suggested our assigned book myself. Most of these are recent fiction, mixed with some current non-fiction.

People recommend books to me, of course. I’m reading The Overstory, a novel by Richard Powers, because my sister not only told me about it but handed me a copy. I read The Midnight Fox by Betsy Byars because a book group friend told me about it. And sometimes friends have themselves written books. I’ve recently finished Looking for True by Tricia Springstubb (and then wrapped it up for my great-niece) and The Cottage in Omena by Charles Andrew Oberndorf, local writers whom I know. Former Clevelander Kristin Ohlson’s Sweet in Tooth and Claw: Stories of Generosity and Cooperation in the Natural World is waiting on my desk.

I avoid reading reviews until I’ve already read the book, but I frequently see titles that interest me in magazines or on the news, or hear about on the radio. If a favorite writer, such Ann Patchett, Anne Tyler, or Annie Dillard writes a book, I request it immediately. I guess I like books by “Anns,” no matter the spelling. I sought out Ramadan Ramsay, one of my favorites from last year, because I fondly remembered Louis Edwards’s 1991 novel, Ten Seconds.

Often, I pick up something at the library that grabs my attention. My dad liked Donald Westlake, and when I saw his book Get Real propped up on a library display recently, I checked it out and brought it home.

My current reading is even more serendipitous. I peeked into our neighborhood Little Free Library a few weeks ago and found Fashion Climbing, a 2019 memoir by Bill Cunningham. I didn’t even know Bill Cunningham had written a memoir. But then, no one did, until his manuscript was found in his apartment after his death in 2016.

This delightful book has prompted me to request a collection of his pictures, Bill Cunningham: On the Street: Five Decades of Iconic Photography, and also Bill Cunningham Was There: Spring Flings + Summer Soirées by John Kurdewan–a chain of books inspired by the first. (My husband says I get obsessed.)

This afternoon I rewatched the moving 2011 documentary called Bill Cunningham New York. You don’t have to be interested in Bill Cunningham, New York, fashion, or even photography to enjoy this film. Gentle and well-made, it captures a fascinating person (and a good person) who loved his work and his city. I love this movie.

I’m enjoying Fashion Climbing a great deal but wouldn’t recommend it as highly as the doc. You do require some interest in Bill, NYC, fashion, etc., to stay engaged. He had some great adventures as a hat designer and fashion writer, and (little did I know) as a GI in Europe in the 1950s. Watch the movie first, and then decide.

How do you choose your books? Is your answer as convoluted as mine?

And oh, yes. Happy New Year.

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5 Responses to Little Free Book

  1. Kathy says:

    And Roger: The Bill Cunningham movie is available on YouTube, so you can watch it for free anytime (with a few ads).

  2. Kathy says:

    Fran–After I’ve finished a book-group book, I have that sense of freedom. I can pick out whatever book I want! The Overstory can definitely use a re-read, which makes it a little discouraging on your first read!

  3. Kathy says:

    Roger: He reminds me of Father Dan. His austere way of living, his acceptance of everyone, his ethics. Interesting to me how the filmmakers and interviewers, etc., don’t say much about Bill Cunningham’s regular church-going. I observe this phenomenon and say it to John often–it’s as though secular people don’t absorb the information or don’t know what to make of it.

  4. Roger Talbott says:

    Loved that Bill Cunningham movie. I am reminded of it often as I walk around this city and see every fashion of “fashion.” Coming back from church this morning, for example, the person sitting across from us on the subway had very masculine features, but was wearing a dress and Mary Janes.

  5. Fran Lissemore says:

    Ah, choosing what to read next…. I remember from earliest childhood being excited at the thought of picking my next book (OK, so I had a boring childhood). I am in only one book group so, yes, some reads are chosen for me (two books groups- very impressive, Kathy). I read The Overstory a couple of years ago, not knowing anything about it except that it was about trees. I thought it was disturbing but needs a second read, which is why it’s till on my nightstand. Happy New Year reading, all!

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