On Books – Don’t forget your book

I am going to Florida soon, and so this afternoon I had a window in my schedule and, instead of heading back to Charlotte, decided to get a much-needed, walk-in pedicure. Luckily for me, the place wasn’t crowded (it often is), and they took me right away. In no time, my feet and ankles were happily soaking in a basin of hot water. Ahhhhh. For my color, I chose gold, something I have never done before and may never do again, but I think I quite like it. I’m not 100 percent sure, but I think it’s okay.

Anyway. You are probably wondering what any of this has to do with books. So far, I admit it has nothing to do with books. But here it is: When I left my house this morning, I paused for a moment to ponder the question of whether I should bring my book with me for the day. I looked at it, lying there on my night table—slim, orange-and-white cover (Karl Geary, Montpelier Parade; excellent), and thought, nah, I won’t have time to read today. I’ll just leave it where it is and come back to it later this evening when the day is done and the night is dark and the car is resting from its labors in the garage, and here it will be, my book, waiting for me, earmarked page 91…

Big mistake. Why? Because one of the best things about getting a pedicure is reading while it’s happening. I almost always bring the book I am reading with me, wherever I happen to be going, whatever I happen to be doing, because you never know—there might be some waiting. And when there is waiting, there is reading. So there I was, feet in hot water, with no book to read. Tragic.

Now, when my daughter gets a pedicure (we often go together when she’s home), she reads her phone. Or looks at her phone. She isn’t a big reader of books for pleasure (yet; I am still hoping). But I didn’t want to read my phone. Reading my phone is nothing like reading a book. Even reading a book on my phone (I’ve done that once, never again) isn’t like reading a book. And so there I was, bookless and bereft. And so it was that I did then what I had to do: I picked up a magazine.

You probably know this already and don’t need me to tell you: some magazines are better than others. I really like The New Yorker…sometimes Time or Newsweek or The Week. But these are not pedicure publications, in my opinion. (The New Yorker, maybe, but not those other three. I don’t think pedicure reading should be too serious, and it definitely should not be distressing.) What was at hand was Cosmopolitan, People (old issues, “I Was Raised by Serial Killers,” etc.), and InStyle, and some other titles not worth mentioning—all unsatisfactory, unappealing. I thumbed through a well-read stack, read a little of this and that, and then my son called.

It was not a satisfying pedicure. And not because of the gold or the pedicurist, who is excellent. I suppose the lesson, the moral, of the story is: Bring your book with you every day, no exceptions, no matter what. You never know when you might have need of it.

But wait, the story doesn’t end there, because when I moved over to the toenail drying station, I found, under a tall stack of more utterly unworthy schlock, a fat, glossy Vogue I had never seen before. And in that Vogue (which was literally half advertisements) was an article by Lena Dunham on her hysterectomy at age 31. It was excellent—raw, honest, funny, touching and very well written. And so all was not lost. I did get in some good reading and left in good spirits (though I did feel bad for Lena Dunham). And my toenails got very, very dry and never smudged at all—because I didn’t find the Vogue till late in the drying process and wasn’t going to leave till I finished that article.

And one more thing. I do recommend Montpelier Parade (mentioned above), a kind of mystery/love/coming-of-age story, quite poetic. And if you have never read it, don’t miss (longtime New Yorker staff writer) William Finnegan’s Barbarian Days, A Surfing Life, a beautifully written, un-put-down-able memoir that won a Pulitzer last year. If you have never read Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries, that’s another excellent book (winner of the 2013 Man Booker Prize), which takes place in the mid-19th century New Zealand goldfields. And finally, if you want something new-age-y and possibly life-changing, try I Am the Word by Paul Selig, “a guide to the consciousness of man’s self in a transitioning time.” It is channeled. But keep an open mind. You might like it.

Happy reading and remember: Don’t leave your book at home. The jury is still out on gold.