“Do you ever resent not being able to choose what you read?” I’ve been fielding this question a lot lately. It’s probably got something to do with the fact that I’ve been making my stock excuse for not having read such-and-such a book—“I’m a professional reader”—more than usual, as the rest of the world luxuriates in summer reads and then wants to talk about them.
Before I go on, banish any misguided notions that I spend my work days just reading and eating bonbons. No, the work life of a book-review editor is as limited in reading opportunities as that of a librarian or any other working person. It is spent rather unglamorously in carrying and rearranging boxes of books, stacks of books, and words about books. (Except for the last, it is a surprisingly physical job.)
No, most of my reading is done when yours is: during lunch breaks, in the evenings, standing in line at the post office, etc. That my reading is largely governed by my job is undeniable. I’m reading books that reviewers have questions about, books that are contenders for the Kirkus Prize, books that I need to make sure deserve the scathing or glowingreviews they’ve been given. I rarely experience the freedom to actively choose a book to read.
But, I remind the people I’m talking to, I engineered my life so that my work is aligned with what I love most to do. Sure, I read some stinker books, and I miss some great ones. But when I open a box to find The Shepherd’s Crown, the latest and last Terry Pratchett, orSymphony for the City of the Dead, M.T. Anderson’s spectacular Shostakovich biography? Well, it’s a tough job, but somebody’s gotta do it.
Vicky Smith is the children’s & teen editor.