The super-heroine of reading
September 7, 2005
AVON – Like “prudish rapper” or “sane Michael Jackson fan,” the image of an “action figure librarian” doesn’t come readily to mind. But for former librarian and author Nancy Pearl, having herself immortalized as an action figure was a great chance to give bookworms their due.”I love the action figure,” Pearl said from her home in Seattle. “It’s a wonderful tribute to librarians.”Pearl, who’s also written several books about the joy of reading, said the idea for the action figure came about when she had dinner with a friend who happened to own a company that makes action figures. He told her some people were claiming a Jesus doll his company made was performing miracles.
Librarians, Pearl responded, were the ones performing miracles every day.Before long, Pearl was on her way to Washington to model for the librarian action figure. Released in 2003, the doll – which is complete with “amazing push-button shushing action” – has become the best-selling item in the 20-year history of the Archie McPhee store and catalog. The Eagle Valley Library District presents “An Evening of Book Lust with Nancy Pearl” Monday at the Beaver Creek Club.Librarians have always been fit for action figure status, according to Pearl. As a child and adolescent, Pearl would escape her “painful-to-live-in home” and visit the public library, where librarians introduced her to new worlds and people through books. “Reading saved my life,” Pearl writes in the introduction to her book “Book Lust.”Pearl has become the perfect representative for librarians because she’s arguably one of the most well-known in pop culture. In 1998, she developed the program “If All of Seattle Read the Same Book,” which quickly spread across the country. But what really propelled her into the limelight was her best-selling books “Book Lust” (Sasquatch Books, 2003) and “More Book Lust” (Sasquatch Books, 2005), two comprehensive guides on reading for every mood, moment and reason. The books’ success inspired a second release of the action figure – this time in deluxe form with book cart, desk and computer – establishing Pearl as the super heroine of reading.”I have a memory for books,” Pearl said. “The books that I love are like family members. I just know them, and I don’t lose those memories.”
The two lust books group together Pearl’s favorite reads by quirky topics. “Armchair Travel,” “Great Dogs in Fiction,” “People You Ought to Meet,” and “I Am Woman Hear Me Roar” are just some of the topics she uses to organize her reading lists. The topics make the book easy to navigate, especially for those looking for something specific, like a book about “The 1960s In Fact and Fiction.””Mostly what I did is just look at the books on my bookshelf,” Pearl said. “And even in doing that I felt I had left out some of the books that I most wanted to include, which is why I wrote ‘More Book Lust.'”No longer a librarian, Pearl now travels the country speaking about her books and reading in general.”You never know how to pronounce anything,” Pearl said about one of the perils she’s experienced since devoting her life to books. “I wish newspapers would put out pronunciation guides.”Pearl has also determined how important it is to read for pleasure, which means if you’re not enjoying the book, stop reading it – even if it’s on a bestseller list. But if it’s for school or a book club, Pearl said, you should probably finish it. She first discovered this as a child. Her father was a man who made her finish everything she started, but he couldn’t keep track of Pearl’s reading. So not finishing a book began as a rebellion, she said.
“You shouldn’t feel guilty if you stop reading a book,” Pearl said. “So what if you didn’t get into that book? There are so many other books out there.”Pearl may be one fo the first to attempt to explain what draws us to a particular book or story. Appeals like character, plot, language and setting will attract certain readers to certain books.”Every book has one or more doorways into it in which the reader will enter the book,” Pearl said. “Maybe the characters are well drawn and three dimensional. Some books you enter because of the storytelling of the author, like Stephen King, page-turning books. It’s the plot; you don’t remember the characters or the setting.”The appeal of Pearl’s lust books is simple: “I hoped that people would find lots of books to read that they wouldn’t have found any other way. I think that has happened.”
Loving words”An Evening of Book Lust with Nancy Pearl”5:30 p.m. MondayBeaver Creek Club in Beaver CreekTickets are $10 and on sale at the Avon (949-
6797), Eagle (328-8800) and Gypsum (524-5080) public libraries.Arts and Entertainment Editor Cassie Pence can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 618, or firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail, Colorado