I have a friend—let’s, for anonymity’s sake, call her Polly Pragmatist—who is a devoted reader and a wonderful writer. Zealously tidy long before the publication of Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Polly decided years ago that there were far too many books cluttering up her home. At this point, I should probably inform you that I am the opposite. Books line my many shelves, spilling over into nearly every nook and cranny of my home and elsewhere. Books in the garage. Books in my car. Books in nearly every tote bag and backpack and purse I own. Proof that I’m a woman who can think ahead. No matter the situation in which I might find myself, why be caught unawares without a book handy?
Library e-books, Polly informs me, solve the book storage problem. Culling most of the physical books from her home with a ruthlessness that would have made her an effective pirate, my friend now reads the digital versions of books on her cellphone. Once she’s read a physical book—which she still does, on occasion—she usually gives it away as soon as she is done. Subscribing, of course, to the if you love something, let it go philosophy. Instead of setting something I love free, I’m like a jealous lover. Refusing to let my beloved forsake me for another. Unless, that is, it is a book I know someone I love will also adore.
Although I refuse to give away a book that’s been signed by an author, especially if the signature is beneath a personalized inscription. Reading what the author has graciously chosen to write to me brings back the memory of waiting in line to get to the book signing table. My delight in the snippets of conversations I overhear. The thrill of having a few precious moments with The Writer before I step aside for the next person in line.
While I speak in reverent tones at someone’s book signing, my friend takes a different approach. After we attended a reading at a writer’s conference, Polly approached a respected novelist to ask him to sign her copy of his book. When he asked to whom he should write the inscription, she briskly replied, “Just your signature. I’ll give the book to someone else after I’ve read it.”
The man’s shocked expression—before he recovered his composure to hurriedly sign the book—no doubt matched my own. One reason my friend had approached him was to network with another writer, not offend him. To Polly’s mind, she’d simply answered honestly, but there are times when candor is far from refreshing. Please do not inform someone who has poured their heart and soul, and who knows how many years, into their work that you’ll just pass it on to someone else as soon as you’ve finished. Remember, dear reader, when it comes to speaking with an author at a book event, it is always better to be Miss Manners than misspoken.