This book will not be liked by everyone. Contrary to what the jacket flap says, this book will probably not make a “passionate reader out of anybody.” In fact, in order to enjoy this book one has to be a passionate reader already. Otherwise, Nelson will sound uppity, snobbish, and insufferable in her blathering about books.
At first glance, the book looks to be a chronicle of Nelson’s reading over the course of a year, a goal of 52 books in 52 weeks. But, after a while, it becomes clear that writing about reading a book a week isn’t what Nelson was trying to achieve. The book is not so much a record of the books that she read over the course of 2002 as it is an ode to book love, to those who are passionate about reading, and the process of book choosing, sharing and reading.
Nelson, an editor and writer in the book field, is almost insufferably connected to the New York elite, reading and writing hip, cutting-edge and pre-published books. Even with that, she touches upon many book truths, things that your average, run-of-the mill book lover will connect to. Like: “Clearly she knew that between book lovers, a novel is not a novel is not a novel. It’s a symbol, an offering, and sometimes a test.” Or, “You know you’re in a bad patch when the most interesting part of the book is the acknowledgments page.” Or, “People notice what you read and judge you by it. Which is why if I were going to read Danielle Steel, I wouldn’t do it at the office. But Nine Parts of Desire speaks to anyone listening: I’m smart, it says. I’m concerned with current events, it announces. I am a serious person.”
After a while, too, it didn’t matter what she read. Nelson writes so much about, and with such love, the books that she is reading and thinking about that, as a reader, you feel like you’ve read them. And, then, you’ll either figure that was enough exposure to each particular book, or you’ll stick it on your to-be-read list, just to see what made the author so giddy about it.
In addition to analyzing many of the books she read, Nelson also tackles general book-related situations: choosing a book (or having a book choose you); that headlong falling into love with a book; erotic scenes versus erotica and the merits (or distractions) of both – “But reading about it: now that’s personal”; the importance of first sentences; and the embarrassing situations when an author wants you to read their book and “tell them the truth.” Yes, Nelson does come off as a New York elite (which she is), and a bit of a snob (ditto; though she treated the section titled “Kid Stuff” well), but she’s also observant, insightful, and passionate. And those three things outweighed the previous two, and made this book an absolute delight to read.
Rated: Moderate. There’s a chapter on erotica, and she uses the f-word a couple of times in conjunction with that chapter.