03/25/05 9:00 am Age: 9 yrs

An Evening of Book Lust

By: Tara Jeske

with Nancy Pearl, March 29

She has her very own action figure. That’s more than can be said for most librarians. In a profession not known for producing celebrity status, Nancy Pearl is perhaps the best-known librarian in the world. She was the model for the Shushing Librarian Action Figure, a gag gift created by the Seattle-area store Archie McPhee, which boasts “Amazing push-button shushing action!”

Pearl has made quite a name for herself in other ways, as well. In 2004 she retired as director of youth services for Washington State’s Center of the Book at the Seattle Public Library, where she started the reading program “If All of Seattle Read the Same Book.” The reading program has been copied in more than 250 cities. All because of her love of a good book.

This love began in her “deeply and fatally unhappy” childhood, and transported her to other worlds. She credits reading with saving her life. “It was painful to live in our house,” she says in the introduction to her book “Book Lust: Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment, and Reason,” “and consequently I spent most of my childhood and early adolescence at the public library.” By the time Pearl was 10, she says she knew she wanted to be a children’s librarian, like the librarians who influenced her reading life.

“Book Lust” is essentially a book of book reviews, but comes across more like a friend saying if you liked “On the Road,” by Jack Kerouac, she thinks you would also enjoy “Going to the Sun,” by James McManus. It includes categories such as Great Dogs in Fiction, First Lines to Remember, Kitchen-Sink Poetry, and Three-Hanky Reads.

Her follow-up book, “More Book Lust,” is due to be released in May of this year, and she says that much of the book came about because people wrote to her about books they thought she would enjoy.

Pearl is also known for her “Rule of 50,” in which she advises a reader who is 50-years-old or younger to read 50 pages of a book before they decide to keep reading it or give up on it. If you’re over 50, she advises that you subtract your age from 100 and read that many pages. She says the Rule of 50 “acknowledges that time is short and the world of books is immense.” She believes you should never finish a book that you’re not enjoying.

Though retired, Pearl teaches “Book Lust 101” at the University of Washington library school, and every Monday at 2 p.m. PST, she shares her thoughts on newly published books with host Dave Beck on National Public Radio station Puget Sound Public Radio, heard in Seattle at KUOW 94.9 FM. Pearl also recently received the 2004 Women’s National Book Association Award for her “extraordinary contributions to the world of books.”

Pearl will visit Walla Walla College Tuesday, March 29, and will speak for the faculty/staff brown bag at noon in the College Church Fellowship Hall, where she will recommend good books across a broad spectrum of subjects. All are invited to come with questions and their lunch. Pearl will speak again at 7:30 p.m. in the Fine Arts Center auditorium. Pearl’s talk is titled “An Evening of Book Lust with Nancy Pearl - The Pleasures and Perils of a Life of Reading.”


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