Page 6: Yeah! An interview with Joyce Carol Oates, the prolific writer and professor of creative writing at Princeton University. I always enjoy reading about JCO. In this interview, she names the last truly great book she read as being James Joyce’s Ulysses. This kicks off a conversation with my husband in which I admit having never read it, and he admits having read only part before turning to Cliffs Notes for the rest. (Today, I check Cliffs Notes and decide I won’t even go that far.)
Pages 7–19: Here’s how I approach the guts of the Book Review section: I look at the review title and subtitle (different from the titling of the book being reviewed) and decide if I have any interest or should have any interest. If I’m not sure, I skip to the last paragraph in the review for an indication of the reviewer’s takeaway for the book. Since my predilections are for biography, memoir, and fiction, I tend to read the full reviews for those—but as you’ve already seen, I may quit on a review partway through. If the fiction is a book of short stories, I skim quickly and usually take a pass. If a review is science or social science, I often read it. If it’s war or history, I skip with only a tad bit of guilt. If it’s children’s books, I skip with no guilt at all.
I get my history from reading historical novels or biographies. For instance, in this week’s Book Review, I am intrigued by John Guy’s Thomas Becket: Warrior, Priest, Rebel: A Nine-Hundred-Year-Old Story Retold. Another benefit of checking out the NYT Book Review is for gift ideas. Thanks to this week’s review of Daniel Smith’s Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety I know what I will be giving a certain beloved someone for his birthday this year.