I have almost ninety books on hold at my public library. I’m either waiting for them to be received by the library as new books, or I’m waiting for someone to return them. Once in a while, a whole bunch of holds might arrive at the same time, so that I have fifteen or twenty books waiting for me, but that’s rare. Wonderful and rare.
As you’d guess, I’ve almost always got a stack of books to be read. Usually I work from the top down, slipping recent acquisitions to the bottom of the stack, so that I can get through them in some kind of order before they’re all due.
But once in a while, a book jumps the queue. Over the weekend, it was As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust by Alan Bradley. Flavia de Luce, the pre-teen detective of Bradley’s six other mysteries, has been sent to Canada to boarding school, and upon her arrival, a corpse falls out of the fireplace in her room. Excellent!
I love Flavia. She’s a scientist and has a particular interest in poisons. She’s highly aware of what is happening around her but isn’t immune to making mistakes about interpreting it all. She is brave and stupid and sneaky and smart. Flavia always jumps to the top of the pile.
Why this book? Or Mortal Heart (Robin LaFevers), which jumped the queue this fall? Or the graphic version of A Wrinkle in Time, which came out a few years ago? Usually, it’s a favorite author, a series, or a character, although it doesn’t always work that way. I have a fondness for picture books, especially wordless ones, and I always tell myself that they’re quick reads, anyway. Sometimes a bestseller will make the jump, especially if a lot of people are waiting for it.
Jumping the queue doesn’t always guarantee that I’ll like a book, however. Sometimes I’m just not in the right mood for a book. Or it’s too long and I’m too busy to sink in for the time I need to read it. Or I can’t figure out why anyone cares about the characters.
It’s also bittersweet. My happy moments with the new Flavia de Luce only last a day or two, and then I have to wait until Alan Bradley decides to write another. (Please write another!) I’m not afraid to reread favorites – my memory is bad enough that I can sometimes make it halfway through before I realize I’ve read it before – but the stack is always waiting, too. And the joy of Flavia — and all really wonderful characters — is that they stay with you beyond the pages.