Sunday, June 27, 2010

Book-A-Day 2010 # 144 (6/27) -- The Book Shopper by Murray Browne

The Book Shopper is a short, slight, harmless book by a guy who has read a lot of books in his day but doesn't think all that deeply about them -- or, at least, doesn't do so here. It's very loosely organized around the idea of "book shopping" -- or, rather, by the fact that Browne himself is a "book shopper." (Which, as far as I can tell, just means that he likes to browse in bookstores, which practically every serious reader does.)

I don't want to come down too hard on this book, which is pleasant and undemanding, but Browne shows no real evidence of having thought deeply about the books he's read, or of having made interesting connections among them, or of doing anything else that would make his musings on books of interest to anyone other than himself and his immediate family. He writes here about the books that just about every middlebrow reader knows: Annie Proulx and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Mary Karr and Jim Harrison, Richard Ford's Independence Day and Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections. And what Browne has to say about those books can mostly be boiled down to: wow, they're good novels.

I'll admit that I've hit the point in my life where I feel like an 18th century grump, and look askance at people who read only novels, so I'm probably harder on Browne's middlebrow tastes than he deserves. But he's read the same books as a hundred thousand book-club members, and has no great insights about them. The Book Shopper is actually only very slightly about actually shopping for books -- about poking through bookstores and finding interesting things -- and Browne isn't particularly compelling about either the hunt or the results. There is a large shelf of books about books that are much more interesting than this one.
Book-A-Day 2010: The Epic Index

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