More good fortune came later. Because I have too many books, I reserve most new titles I want to read from the Boston Public Library. Their online system tells me what number I am on the waiting list for the popular ones, and then I get an email when a book is ready for pickup. During my Sunday break from the Internet, I'd read an interesting review of Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. The novel sounds sad, funny, terrifying, and bizarre — and not like anything I'd normally read, but I believe it's good to try things beyond our comfort zone. The reviewer also compared it to Spoon River Anthology, which I love. So I eagerly reserved it, and noted with mild shock that I was #119 in line. I'd figured I'd probably get it around October, when I'd no longer remember why I wanted to read it.
However, the BPL has this little-known program — at least I'd never heard about it — to give hope to disappointed readers like me. The lobby area of the newly renovated ground floor of the Johnson Wing is attractive and inviting, a huge success especially compared to its previous incarnation, which seemed to be modeled on a Soviet prison. Now it's a great place to browse or to sit and work at the long counter by the big front windows with a laptop. The lobby has several rolling bookcases filled with recent titles grouped thematically: biographies, summer reads, etc. It reminds me of a bookstore to the point where I often feel guilty walking out with my shiny-new books — as if I should be buying them instead of checking them out.
Photo: www.arrowstreet.com (architectural firm)
But as I was saying . . . the librarians also have a discreet display in the lobby called "Lucky Day." Here they gather one or two copies of some of the most sought-after books, bestsellers with the longest waiting lists. The books have four-leaf clover stickers on their spines and can be checked out for just two weeks, not the usual three. If you happen to spot a book you've been waiting ages for, it's your lucky day. (Librarians think of everything, don't they?)
I'd been to the library on Monday and did not find Lincoln in the Bardo or anything else that interested me on the Lucky Day shelf. We went back to today because The Hidden Life of Trees was overdue. This bestseller is about how trees in forests communicate and take care of each other. (I don't talk about trees here a lot, but I should. In the past year, I've been very involved with some local trees. I should tell you more about that.) I'd reserved it last October and finally got it three weeks ago. But I am too heartbroken about losing some local trees recently to read it right now. I don't want to feel their loss even more.
We'd browsed the Lucky Day shelves on the way to return the book. As we walked away, I saw a librarian with an armload of books heading to the Lucky Day shelves. We went back and watched him for a moment. "Oh, hi," I said. "What else have you got there?" "What are you looking for?" he asked. I saw it in his hand. "Lincoln in the Bardo! Hand it over!" I said, feeling both lucky and like a book thief. My husband reminded me to say "thank you," and I did.
After the library, we went to the Brattle Bookstore, where I found a book called Home Life in America by Katherine G. Busbey, published in 1910. It's a highly opinionated account of how families lived in towns and cities across America, filled with details about ordinary daily life. I've been craving this kind of information lately, and I hope it gives me a better understanding of what life was like for the Sabine family after they moved into this house in 1909.
I wish you a lucky, lucky June. Withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord today may not feel lucky, but I bet it will come back to bite this administration in a big way. Three cheers for Gov. Brown and California, and keep in mind that it can take up to four years to fully separate from the accord. And who wants to bet that we have another president long before then?