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Nancy Pearl's 'More Book Lust'

May 16, 2005

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Librarian Nancy Pearl has followed up her popular book Book Lust with another guide to the reading life: More Book Lust. Read an excerpt below.

Introduction to Nancy Pearl's 'More Book Lust'

If we were at a twelve-step meeting together, I would have to stand up and say, "Hi, I'm Nancy P., and I'm a readaholic." As I explained in the introduction to Book Lust, my addiction to reading (and my career as a librarian) grew out of a childhood that was rescued from despair by books, libraries, and librarians. I discovered at a young age that books—paradoxically—allowed me both to find and to escape myself. I was enthralled with the sheer glory of the written word when I read (or had read to me), for example, Robert McCloskey's One Morning in Maine and A Child's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson as a child, and I've never looked back. Recently a friend reminded me of what Francis Spufford says in The Child That Books Built: A Life in Reading: "The books you read as a child brought you signs you hadn't seen yourself, scents you hadn't smelled, sounds you hadn't heard. They introduced you to people you hadn't met, and helped you to sample ways of being that would never have occurred to you." As a child, I lived those words, and continue to do so as an adult reader.

I live now in a small condominium whose four rooms are piled high with books that have spilled off the bookcases that line all the available wall space, and which themselves are already double-shelved with books. (It perhaps sounds messier than it is.)

In addition to being an addicted reader, I have to confess that I am a promiscuous reader as well. I basically read anything, as long as it's well written and has interesting characters. And there's no subject in which you won't find books that meet those criteria. As I write this, stacked next to my bed are these books, waiting patiently for me to read or reread them: Collected Poems by Donald Justice; Robert Byron's classic travel book, The Road to Oxiana; James Muirden's Shakespeare Well-Versed: A Rhyming Guide to All His Plays; Why Didn't They Ask Evans? by Agatha Christie; Francine Prose's A Changed Man; Boys and Girls Together by William Goldman; Sheila Levine Is Dead and Living in New York by Gail Parent; The Children's Blizzard by David Laskin; Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray; Mantrapped by Fay Weldon; Mrs. Daffodil by Gladys Taber; and The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright. A frighteningly eclectic list, to be sure.

Any life devoted to reading is extraordinarily rich and rewarding, but it can certainly become an unbalanced life. Because of all the time I spend devoted to reading, here are some things that I've, perforce, given up: gardening, cooking, rollerblading, and cleaning house. But in return I've gotten so much gratification from the life that reading has allowed me to live. I've gotten enormous pleasure from writing Book Lust and now More Book Lust. Writing these two books has given me a chance to select from the huge assortment of books that are available at bookstores and libraries a group of books that I've read and enjoyed—fiction, nonfiction, old, new, happy books, dark books, books for children, teens, and adults—and that I believe that other readers will enjoy too.

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Detail from the cover of 'Berlin Game' by Len Deighton ()

Librarian's Picks: The Best in Spy Fiction

Feb 2, 2005 (Morning Edition)

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For an industry shrouded in secrecy, the business of spying and espionage is one that many claim to understand — especially if they happen to enjoy reading spy novels.

From intrigue-filled fiction spurred by the Cold War to glamorous movies with twisting plots, the business of spying — espionage, surveillance and sabotage — has captured imaginations for decades. The genre has adapted with the times, moving from NATO-U.S.S.R. conflicts to convoluted tales of international competition and terrorism.

At a time when the nation's intelligence agencies are being reformed, it seemed a good opportunity to take stock of great spy novels. To do that, we turned to an expert: Nancy Pearl, a Seattle librarian and author of a book of recommended reading.

Pearl says she has long been a fan of the genre — and she's watched it change since the days of John le Carre and Ian Fleming, to reflect the modern world.

In addition to her librarian duties and compiling reading suggestions, Pearl has won a Women's National Book Association Award. And she is one of the few librarians in the world to have her own action figure.

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Pearl's Favorite Spy Novels

John le Carre's Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and A Perfect Spy David Quammen's The Soul of Viktor Tronko Charles McCarry's The Tears of Autumn and The Last Supper The Once and Future Spy and The Company by Robert Littell Len Deighton's Berlin Game, Mexico Set and London Match The Great Impersonation by Edward Phillips Oppenheim It Can't Always be Caviar by Johannes Mario Simmel Donald Westlake's A Spy in the Ointment Anything by Daniel Silva: The Kill Artist, A Death in Vienna, and more

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