I'm not intimidated nor pressured by the sheer number of books I have in my room, the 10 stacks across from the right side of my bed, the clustered stacks in front of my nightstand to the left of my bed. I'm always excited about the possibilities they present, and I like seeing the books I want to read soon. But I like some order in it, even though my organizational skills say otherwise since none of the stacks are really ramrod straight. Some are fierce competitors against gravity as they teeter at times. Some probably intend to tip over when I'm not looking, but they're just fearful of my glare.
The order that I seek is reading order. Before, I'd just pluck whatever book out of whatever stack that interested me. Finished with one, go back for another. Before that even, I'd have three or four books going which turned out not to be a good idea because even though I'd enjoy what I was reading, I'd never feel close to those books.
So I want to give equal attention to fiction and nonfiction, and I decided that I'll have one novel (or book of short stories) and one nonfiction book always at hand, and when I finish the novel, I'll move on to the nonfiction book, and back and forth. For example, yesterday I finished reading Bed Rest by Sarah Bilston, a novel about a British New Yorker ordered to bed rest for the final three months of her pregnancy and what transpires from it. Then I moved on to Like I Was Sayin'... by Mike Royko, a collection of his columns from 1966 to 1984, across The Daily News, the Chicago Sun-Times, and the Chicago Tribune. I replaced Bed Rest with O: A Presidential Novel by Anonymous (the author's identity was revealed not long after publication in January), about Obama's re-election campaign against Tom "Terrific" Morrison, a four-star general and one-term governor who is the Republican nominee for president, and though privately he does not like Obama, he vows to run a clean, civil campaign and sticks to it. In light of what the real-life Republicans are offering up as candidates, I'm going to read this and dream. After I finish Like I Was Sayin'..., I'll move on to this. And I'll replace Like I Was Sayin'... with Sixpence House: Lost in a Town of Books by Paul Collins, about he and his family moving from San Francisco to Hay-on-Wye, a small town in Wales, England which has 1,500 residents and forty bookstores. My kind of book, and though I'd be tempted to move to Hay-on-Wye just for the bookstores, I'm doing well enough on my own and I've got so much I want to accomplish in my own country anyway.
There are exceptions to this arrangement. Research for my presidential books and my 1930s Hollywood history book, and a few others, can go forth with as many nonfiction books as necessary. And today in the mail, I received, among other books, Oy Vey: More! - The Ultimate Book of Jewish Jokes Part 2 by David Minkoff, and Word of Mouth: Poems Featured on NPR's All Things Considered, edited by Catherine Bowman. Joke books and books of poems don't take me long to read, so they can drift by as often as I want to read them.
Though I tend to read nonfiction much more than fiction, there are authors such as Ann Beattie, Anne Tyler, and others who I want to get to know more, and this is the best arrangement for it. And since last week, I've felt much closer to my reading.