For a brief moment this summer I was doing the impossible. I was only reading one book at a time. That may seem both unremarkable and exceedingly ordinary, but I am one of those readers who likes to cast my mind in multiple directions at once. I also tend to get on odd reading tracks. Last winter it was a spate of books about LDS. Or the summer before last when it was novels set during WWII in Britain. I never plan these things, my brain just goes there on its own.
The solo book streak is over, though, and I am back to my version of normal. I read (a lot) at work. My museum reading is currently Building Lives: Constructing Rites and Passages by Neil Harris, which deals with the “lifespan,” in human terms, of buildings. Basically, it’s about buildings’ biographies. I’m also reading Fever Season: The Story of a Terrifying Epidemic and the People Who Saved a City by Jeanette Keith. This one is about the yellow fever epidemic that hit Memphis in 1878, an event which had profound repercussions for the city over the next several decades. It’s the foreground to the narrative that I’m working on for our new exhibits, and I’ve been working on it for months. I mostly read it when I’m eating lunch alone, which thankfully doesn’t happen very often.
On the home front, I finished Augusten Burrough’s Possible Side Effects this morning. I love humor essays, and I’m glad to have very belated discovered him. I am working my way through Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond. I have never read a history quite like it, and I am thoroughly enjoying it. It is also a massive tome, so I anticipate that I’ll be reading through it for quite a while. I’m also reading Sexual Abuse, Shonda and Concealment in Orthodox Jewish Communities by Michael Lesher. Quite the departure from the other books, no? I received an early reviewer copy from LibraryThing, and, while heavy in both a legal and tragic way, it is also very interesting. Lesher is moving beyond the descriptive works that came before his and offering analysis about why there are problems with reporting child abuse in these communities. The topic is quite removed from what I normally read, and I like it.
To sum it up, I read a lot. I like to jump topics, and I’ve never had any problems reading more than one thing at once. Consider it a byproduct of all those years of formal education. What’s the difference between reading a book for English class as well as one at home and choosing to read more than one at a time? Someday I’ll be down to reading one book again, but my guess is that it will be a while.