Tom Nissley •
A Reader’s Book of Days •
What can you say about a book that begins with Bridget Jones totting up her calorie consumption and ends with Mark Twain attending a reading by Charles Dickens? Only that it’s pure magic, a treasure you will want to plunder again and again.
Tom Nissley, a bookstore owner and eight-time Jeopardy! champion, spent years of his life buried in library stacks to ferret out page after page of date-specific literary highlights and details. “I was the guy in the library with books piled all around him, new ones every day,” he says in the introduction. “And every day I foraged for stories: moments in the lives of writers, or the invented lives of their characters, that I could connect to a particular date but also to something larger.”
How could I have survived this long without knowing that June 14 was the day Charles Schulz proposed to Donna Mae Johnson, the original of the Little Red-Haired Girl? (She turned him down.) Or that on March 20, Barbara Pym received word that her longtime publisher had rejected the manuscript of An Unsuitable Attachment?
Nissley’s formidable research illuminates the sweeping continuity of the printed word. Life and literature intertwine as Salinger meets Hemingway, Verlaine shoots Rimbaud, and Harper Lee gets a Christmas gift that changes the world of letters forever.
Finally, the book serves as a reminder that authors don’t spend every waking moment at the keyboard. They also catch double features (Susan Sontag, April 10), fly hot-air balloons (James Tytler, August 27), get evicted (Zora Neale Hurston, October 16), suffer from lockjaw (Henry David Thoreau, January 11), milk goats (George Orwell, April 14), and have snowball fights (Edward Gorey, February 22).
If you plan to give this book as a gift, buy two copies so you can keep one.