One of the joys of reading is sharing favorite books with other readers. Even when I’m still reading a book that really strikes my fancy, I’m thinking about who else might really like it.
Of course sharing books often becomes giving books away, and that’s fine. I’m not that good at remembering who lent me which book, and I don’t even try to keep track of what book I lent to whom. But there is a downside. My book shelves gradually become cluttered with the books I didn’t like well enough to share. When there’s no more room for new books I want to buy, and the stack on my bedside table is reaching a tipping point, it’s time to cull. I almost never throw a book away. Instead, the thrift shop gives unwanted books the chance to find someone who likes them better.
Mysteries probably account for half the books I read, but my all-time favorite novel is The Master And Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov, which not a mystery but a satire – and more. It combines mockery of Stalin’s Russia, particularly the literary establishment, with a romance and the story of Christ’s passion. This sounds complicated, possibly grim, but it’s easy to read and often very funny. Over the years, I’ve shared The Master and Margarita with numerous friends and family members and rarely get my book back. That’s okay. I’m happy to share and will keep buying copies for myself. Books aren’t free, but they aren’t that expensive either. Over the years, I’ve bought a least a dozen copies for myself.
My favorite mystery is Tim O’Brien’s In The Lake of the Woods, which is not a who-done-it but a what-did-he-do. I just went to the bookshelves to check something that I wanted to mention about this book and found that I don’t have it anymore, and neither do I have my copy of What They Carried. It’s time to go book shopping.