Harvey Freedenberg practices intellectual property law and litigation with a Harrisburg, Pennsylvania law firm. In 2000, he took a six-month sabbatical from his law practice and studied creative writing with novelist Susan Perabo at his alma mater, Dickinson College. Four of his short stories have won prizes, and he has written an as yet unpublished novel. Harvey, a member of the National Book Critics Circle, reviews both fiction and nonfiction for BookPage, Bookreporter.com, Shelf Awareness and the Minneapolis Star Tribune and writes a monthly column on books for Harrisburg Magazine. He can be found on Twitter at @HarvF.
I’m in the happy situation of living in a house where the nearest book is never more than a few feet away, but our overstuffed bookshelves bear witness to the difficulty of finding room for all of them. Though a Kindle has helped stem the tide, it’s inevitable that small islands have established themselves next to more than one bed.
Ever since I began reviewing in 2005, my bedside table has become the resting place for an ever shifting array of titles that remind me of the deadline-driven reading that lies ahead in the next few weeks. Right now that space is occupied by Canada, the new novel from one of my favorite writers, Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Ford, commentator E.J. Dionne’s Our Divided Political Heart, an analysis of our pervasive political gridlock, What Happened to Sophie Wilder?, a novel by Christopher Beha, and new essay collections from two very smart people—Marilynne Robinson and Jonathan Franzen. I’m saddened to report that worthy volumes of short stories by Deborah Eisenberg, Max Apple and George Saunders have been relegated to a second stack, along with T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets and the slim book, Slow Reading, by John Miedema, which seems like a rebuke to the whole notion of a TBR pile.
The more interesting collection is the one I’ve assembled in what used to be my daughter’s bedroom, converted to a library/guestroom after she departed our house. I’ve gathered this group of books with some forethought and like to think of it as one might a pile of stones marking a path through the woods or a signal fire in the desert. The books that have made it there are ideal for picking up by someone in search of a quick read before dropping off to sleep or for companionship in the quiet of a restless night.
J. Peder Zane’s The Top Ten is a compilation of the favorite books of more than 100 authors, while Leah Price’s Unpacking My Library is a mini-coffee table book boasting gorgeous color photographs highlighting the libraries of writers like Jonathan Lethem and Gary Shteyngart. There’s The Book of Luminous Things, an international anthology of poetry edited by Czeslaw Milosz, essay collections by Donald Hall, Joseph Epstein, Ian Frazier and the ultimate bibliophile, Nicholas Basbanes, alongside the timeless Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. All are rich with wisdom, inspiration, humor and consolation, some of the rewards we seek when we reach for a good book. What more could one possibly ask from a dozen or so books? I only hope our guests appreciate them as much as I do.
Do you have a special stash of books by your bed?