Sleeping with Books No. 8: Oh, Henrietta

Posted on February 9, 2011


Apologies for the drawn-out radio silence. I’m a godforsaken lazy bastard blog keeper/editor. To the point: “Sleeping with Books” is back, with a guest contribution from Kate Sheehan, a librarian in the deadly Connecticut Contingent. As you will see, she has gorgeous, splashy, photo-ready red hair and a brain that’s bulging from behind the book.

The cover over my face should be well known to all the book fiends reading here. I haven’t read it yet. I’ve wanted to read it since Rebecca Skloot started talking about HeLa on RadioLab. And yet…

My relationship with this book tidily sums up my relationship with my to-be-read pile (which is a physical pile, a hold list, and a mental collection of interesting titles). At its best, my reading cycle looks like this: I hear about a book I want to read, (usually several times) and I place a hold on it. The book comes in, I read it (rarely within the allotted time, since I’m usually reading something else), I move on to the next book (often overdue by the time I get to it).

All too often, this process is derailed. Sometimes, my reading rhythm is thrown by a book. The best reader’s advisors ever told me once that a reader requires the right book at the right time. A book read out of turn can leave me shuffling through magazines or starting and stopping different books for weeks. I’ve been casting about lately, and moving The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks around my house, hoping it will help me get my reading groove back.

Since I am a librarian, actual ownership can be a detriment. I was lucky enough to come into possession of this volume thanks to this blog’s authoress and her hootingly entertaining twitter contests. But without that due date nipping at my heels (actually, the due date doesn’t phase me, but the thought of making other people wait while I dally does), I am less inclined to pick it up.

This particular title has also crossed another of my troublesome thresholds. It is blindingly popular, well-reviewed, and loved by everyone. I have read about how incredible this book is on almost every site I visit regularly – the book nerds and science wonks I read all adore it. At first, heavy praise entices, but at some point, my inner crank  rears her head and I perversely lose interest in must-reads. I always capitulate, with mixed results—I enjoyed Water for Elephants and recommend it still, but could not finish The Story of Edgar Sawtelle.

I know I will like this book. I want to read it. I should read it before I start trying to apply the lessons of the tbr pile to the rest of my life. It’s next, I swear.