Reading Away From New York by Emily Beth Rapoport
Let me start off by saying, yes, there are fantastic libraries in New York City. But when you work in book publishing, and the office has rooms with shelves full of free books, well…in the seven years I lived in the Big Apple, I never stepped foot in a public library.
Just this summer, I left the New York publishing world after a long hard look at the quality of my life: I loved my authors, the books I worked on, and the people I worked with, but there was very little tethering me down to a city that caused me agita just to get from one place to another. Upon my return to Ohio, my native state, I went to the Columbus library three times that first week; my reserved items kept popping up, and who am I to let a good book sit on a shelf? Although, I should clarify that I have scores of unread books waiting for me on my personal bookshelves, but the temptation of a requested library book was a siren’s song.
Among the stacks at the library, I linger over books by author’s I’ve worked with, or titles I recognize from publishing gossip. Of course it’s not that easy turning off the editorial part of my brain. . . I struggle not to judge a book within the first ten pages; and if I don’t like it, then I’m onto another book. There are too many good books that will grab my attention that I don’t need to spend my time dilly-dallying with books that don’t pack a punch. I find myself intuitively comparing writing styles and plots to other established authors and books, the way I would prepare for an editorial meeting. Yes, Gone Girl was well-written, but I prefer Tana French’s twists and turns. And The Song of Achilles was historical fiction awesomesauce: almost like Margaret George and her Helen of Troy, only half as long.
Even while inundated with a slush pile and solicited manuscripts, in New York I read books for pleasure to keep myself sane and to remind myself why I became a part of book publishing; now, I’m surprised that I’m reading books for the same reasons: to maintain my sanity during a life upheaval, and for the love of reading.
While everything in my life is changing, I know I can always rely on books to carry me through. Just last night, after my recreational league softball game, I asked a teammate if he enjoyed reading—what can I say, old habits die hard. My teammate lit up, pulled out his cell phone, and showed me how far along he was in reading Atlas Shrugged. That’s right. On his phone.
So what have I learned in the months since I’ve left the circle of New York book publishing? The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Emily Beth Rapoport edited books in New York City for a Big Six publisher before Ohio lured her back. When she’s not reading, she cheers for The Ohio State Buckeyes, and plans her next big adventure. You can reach her at Edits.Emily@gmail.com.
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