Librarians who read — and don’t

The NYPL librarians’ list of “books to remember,” now celebrating its 50th year, usually includes a smattering of literary heavyweights. But it also tends to steer me toward at least one book I wouldn’t know about otherwise. A reader named Teddy attended last Friday’s ceremony for the 2005 selections, and reports that the presentations spurred him to read several of this year’s choices.

Each of the librarian-panelists had read so many books (about two per week for a year)…. I got the impression that they would never select a book because it had a “name” author. I overheard a conversation in which one of the panelists panned Saturday and Specimen Days as being over-rated.

Two works of fiction that I hadn’t heard of that received very passionate endorsements were: Controlled Burn and Please Don’t Come Back from the Moon. The presentation for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (which of course everyone’s heard of) brought down the house. The presenter, Susan Chute, had tattooed the words “Yes” and “No” on opposite palms — as does one of the characters in the book. Also, though I don’t read many biographies, after hearing the presentations, I vowed to read American Prometheus and Vindication (about Mary Wollstonecraft).


Somewhat related: The librarians of my acquaintance are so well-read, and have such finely-tuned bullshit detectors, I tend to put their recommendations ahead of most book reviewers’. So I share with you this reality check, courtesy of the librarian blogger at Where is My Hand Sanitizer?.

The thing is, when I meet people and the discussion comes up about what I do for a living, they automatically jump in and start asking me if I have read any of the past 37 books they have read. In the same fashion I interrupt telemarketers to tell them I’m not interested in whatever crap fake service they are selling, I say, “Whoa, Nelly! No I haven’t read that that or that, I don’t read.” They look at me perplexed, and stutter, “Uh…but… you’re a librarian.” Yes, I am a librarian, but that doesn’t mean I read anything more than the reviews for books I order.


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