“How Books Find Me,” First Published on Shelf Pleasure

Max Langelott photo of Stuttgart library

Photo by Max Langelott on Unsplash

Note: The essay archived below was first published on the book-lovers’ website ShelfPleasure.com in 2012. The site is no longer active. I’m sharing it here as a writing sample.


If you were to look at my nightstand, my coffee table, and my Goodreads profile, you’d see about 400 books. About 390 of them came into my life through the usual means like recommendations and reviews. The rest found me through synchronicity, and those are the ones that I love the most, that I find myself buying, keeping, loaning out, and recommending to others.

Over the years, I’ve read endless articles about how people find books, but never a single one describing how books find people. This, I think, is a critical oversight, because the best books, the ones that make the biggest impact on us, don’t come to us through active seeking; they float into our lives at just the right time, the way a perfect wave will come to a surfer exactly when she’s ready to ride it.

Woodswoman memoir

My most recent serendipitous find was Woodswoman by Ann LaBastille. In true “meant-to-be” fashion, I didn’t stumble upon the book itself; rather, I found a newspaper obituary from the Los Angeles Times, taped to the end of a shelf in my favorite used bookstore. The obit was dated 2011 and featured a photograph of a gray-haired woman sitting in a canoe with her German shepherd. After a divorce in the 1970s, it said, LaBastille retreated to the Adirondacks of New York State, built herself a 12 x 12 foot log cabin on the undeveloped side of a remote lake, and remained there for decades, supporting herself as a conservationist consultant, writer, and photographer. In those many years, she’d written several well-regarded memoirs about her life in the woods.

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Writing, Editing, and Reading: March 29, 2016 Edition

I always say that once Halloween rolls around, the rest of the year is a roller coaster with no brakes. Somehow, with all the holidays, the little things fall between the cracks. That was certainly the case with updating this blog — the holidays took over and seemed to extend past 1/1, spilling almost all the way to Tax Day. (Party on.) But now I’m back with a few quick updates.

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Writing, Editing, and Reading: October 5, 2015 Edition

Writing:

My current copywriting assignment (a health-related business website) is in client iStock_000015562210XSmall-tomato-typewriterreview, so I’ve switched gears to work on creative projects: a residency application and poetry revisions. The key to moving forward as a writer is to always be closing on something (Glengarry Glen Ross reference).

Editing:

This week a new client found me online. We’re working together to tighten the plot and improve the flow of his science fiction short story. Fun!

Reading:

Perfidia by James Ellroy, for a book club, though my library copy of Elena Ferrante’s Days of Abandonment just arrived and I’m eager to start it. The fiction I’ve been writing lately is about women who stay at home too much (the perils of freelancing from home — it infects your creative work). I’m eager to get another perspective on solitude.

— Kristen