So Last Season by Michael Guevara
Sometimes I worry that I’m not book hip enough, that I haven’t kept up with the latest must-reads, that my books are so last season. Others recommend new book after new book they’ve read while my Amazon Wish list grows like the epiphyseal plates of a teenage boy.
The co-opted cliché, “So many books, so little time” makes me regret all the Sophie’s choice moments in my life: yard work/gardening or reading; spending time with the family or reading; pretending to be a runner or reading; Real Housewives of New Jersey marathon or reading (don’t judge—some of them write books.)
Still, my longing, which is just a nice way to say jonesing, for the next new read stirs the dilemma that is the book-nerd nexus: Buy now and read later, or buy now, forsake all others, and read now. What is a reader supposed to do? In my family room, shelves of books outline the space and reams of pages pressed between bindings cry out like puppies at a shelter, “Pick me, pick me!” Can it be right to bring another book onto the shelf when so many others wait for good readers? Is it wrong to want to read what all the cool readers are reading?
New isn’t always better—at least that’s what I’ve tried to convince my children on multiple occasions over the years. And maybe new to you is new enough.
Over the weekend, my seventh-grader was reading William Goldman’s The Princess Bride. Though it was a whole-class reading assignment rather than a book he chose for himself, which would have been my preference, he was enjoying the book, so I let my soapbox rest quietly in the corner.
His legs resting over the arms of an upholstered chair, his face buried deeply in the pages of his book, he pored over pages, ignoring The Real Housewives of New Jersey marathon and subsequent commercials going on in the background. He continued reading until something from a commercial caused his head to pop up from the book.
Anyone who knows me knows I loathe Pepsi with a passion that burns hotter than August in Texas, but in this Pepsi commercial using famous lines from movies to tout its new mini cans, the line “Inconceivable” rang loudly from the television.
“Hey, that’s in my book,” Zion blurted out, excited about this connection he now understood. No matter how long a book has been out, the first time you read it, it’s new to you. All the wonders others have previously discovered are still there waiting for new readers to discover them.
Not long ago, I finished Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowlands, a book so new for me that it’s still only available in hardback. It’s a book I will eagerly recommend to others. I’ve already lent my copy to a colleague. And though, for just a little bit, I will feel like one of cool readers of hipster contemporary works, I also know that I just finished reading Barbara Kingsolver’s The Lacuna, which felt a little like walking around carrying a copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
But then again, I’m the guy who wears plaid pants and white loafers (even after Labor Day). I’m the guy wearing camouflage skinny jeans to work and conferences. I have pinks pants, green pants, yellow pants. I wear what makes me feel good, and I make it look good, or at least I think I do.
So, I’m going to take pride in my last season’s reading because new to me is new enough. What will you read that you always meant to read but never got around to? Let me know, and when I finish State of Wonder by Ann Patchett, I’ll let you know.
Michael M. Guevara is a former English and journalism teacher. He is working on his first novel and conducts professional development workshops for English/language arts teachers. Married to a kindergarten teacher and the father of three sons, Michael spends most of the money he makes as a consultant for The Texas Association of School Boards on books, tuition, and Diet Coke. You can find out more about Michael at wonk-ink.com