If you'll recall, I had very unstructured plans for my summer reading. I wanted to read a few books from off the bookshelves in my own basement (consisting of a mix of already-read favorites and TBR classics and reference works), and I wanted to partake in a few challenges.
So here it is, the day after Labor Day, and I didn't do one post all summer about my "Basement Reading." Typical.* Although I did fulfill my duty of participating in a challenge in July, when I took part in Thomas's very enjoyable International Anita Brookner Day challenge, and I had a really good time with that. I want to read more Brookner someday.
So it turned out I only re-read one book from my basement this summer, and it barely counts because it's barely 150 pages long--Robert Sullivan's tiny little book titled How Not to Get Rich: Or Why Being Bad Off Isn't So Bad. Back in the day when I was first falling in love with nonfiction (my eyes met the pages of Matthew Hart's nonfiction science title Diamond: A Journey to the Heart of an Obsession across a crowded library...the book wooed me shamelessly, with smooth prose and new facts and the irresistible sensation that I was learning something at the same time I was wasting time reading...ooh! The rush of a new relationship), one of the first books that blew my reading mind was Robert Sullivan's Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City's Most Unwanted Inhabitants. It sounds ucky but it's not, it's fascinating. I wrote a review of it for Bookslut, which they were kind enough to publish, and then I rushed off to read some other Robert Sullivan titles, and developed a huge crush on him. I developed such a crush that I actually wanted to help support him monetarily, even in a tiny way, so I bought a copy of one of his books new (which I almost never do, as I am cheap). That book was titled, ironically enough, How Not to Get Rich.
Now, trust me, I do not need a book on that subject. I have been getting not rich for more than a third of a century now and I am GOOD at it. I am the idiot who tips my change AND a dollar bill when I buy a plain coffee at the coffee shop. But in the throes of my Sullivan Crush I didn't need a reason to buy his (then) newest book. When I got it, I read it and enjoyed it, and it ended up on my basement bookshelves, which sounds sad, but is actually where I keep most of my most treasured books (we have, luckily, a quite clean and dry basement). But I don't know if I enjoyed it as much on that initial read as I enjoyed it this time. Probably because in the interim I have had a few more years in which not to get rich.
The whole volume, if you can't tell from the title, is a cheeky little spoof of advice books, many of which cover financial topics. In addition to being funny, and charming, it rings with truth (as all the best truly humorous writing does). Consider the text in the chapter headed "How to Spend the Bulk of Your Leisure Time If You Are Not Going to Get Rich, Probably Ever":
"You read. You read for pleasure. Not constantly; you want to see your friends and get outside once in a while and so on, but you want to do a lot of reading. Perhaps it sounds too simple, but reading is an important strategy in the pursuit of a lifestyle that is, monetarily speaking, not that well-off."
Ha. Sound familiar, anyone? But what I really like about this title is how it admits, basically, that the average person (and the below-average, and the above-average) is not going to get rich in their lifetime, regardless of what sort of American dream, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps bullshit we've all been taught since elementary school. It admits that, but yet it's not depressing. You actually finish this book feeling pretty good about not being rich. You feel dumb because you're not as funny and as good a writer as Robert Sullivan is, but you feel better about not being rich. That's worthwhile.
*Reminds me of one of my favorite jokes: How do you make God laugh? Make a plan.