The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing, Melissa Bank

I love that there exist books I must read in a day. It’s as freeing a feeling as diving into the ocean. I come up from a book like that sputtering, looking around at everything I’ve forgotten I need to do. The dishes are not just not done – they’re not even in the sink. They’re not even in the kitchen. The laundry hasn’t had a chance to get wrinkled in the dryer because it’s stinking up our closet. My email, which I prefer to keep as close to inbox zero as possible, suddenly balloons. I resort to scribbling down notes from phone calls or numbers for the doctor’s office on the white board on the fridge because otherwise it will be as though those conversations never happened. The book is all that matters.

I read at least a book a week, and sometimes more, so I feel comfortable saying that I read a lot. I read at the gym and when I’m waiting to pick up my husband from work. I stay up too late lying in odd angles to angle the light from his kindle onto my pages, and when I wake up sandy-eyed the next morning, I shake the cobwebs away by reading over breakfast. I’ve always been like this, obsessed, filling the empty spaces with words and stories and my own happy endings.

I do this regardless of the fact that some of those books aren’t the greatest. Not all books are created equal. But we know that, don’t we? We’re readers. If you stick with me here every week, if you’re willing to read about reading, you know this. You know that there are infinite books in the world, and some of them will make your blood sing, and some of them you’ll read every ten years like clockwork, and some you’ll donate without getting past the first chapter.

This is part of the reason why I don’t use a metric system here to talk about the books I read – four stars could mean so many things – I can’t quite wrap my brain about that kind of categorization. It’s not wrong, it’s just not me. I’m the kind of person who pets the spines on books when I have to leave them on the shelves in bookstores. I whisper to them. Don’t worry. Soon, the perfect person will be by, and they will find you and love you as you’re meant to be loved. I am overly sentimental.

When I found The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing last January, I staying with my parents. I’d come out with a couple of friends from high school. They were buried somewhere in Music History, and I was dragging a finger over all the overly stuffy fiction titles that end up in second-hand bookstores. I didn’t need a new book, so of course, I was already holding four of them, and this became the last. Girls was where I drew the line and demanded we buy and sit and have our bottle of wine (because the best bookstores serve wine and have couches where you can sprawl out with your compatriots, clutching your books and laughing over the fact that one of you owns a house now, and one is expecting a baby, and all are incandescently happy that while everything changes, this can still exist). So we did, and it snowed that night, which was perfect, and then I packed up and flew home, and it found a place beside all the orphan books I can’t bear to whisper goodbye to.

And it languished there. Many books do. I’m a raven that way, picking up more shiny titles than I have time to read. Until I do. And often, the paper and glue books I buy, the ones I grab without the benefit of Amazon’s carefully collated selection – often, they are the very best. I fell hard into this book, and the whole time, it reminded me of when I first read Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim. It was eight years ago, but I still remember it stitching itself into my soul like it was yesterday. It’s a funny feeling, and not entirely comfortable. Books like Girls tickle and prick at the edge between what’s right and what’s true. They remind you of the things you’ve done wrong, and the things you’ve left undone, but also of the fact that everyone does things wrong, and leaves things undone sometimes. Instead of loathing that imperfection, this book embraces the frailty that exists in all of us.

11 thoughts on “The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing, Melissa Bank

  1. I absolutely “adore” this post! You describe the love of reading and books so very well. Thank you — reading your post was a lovely way to start my day. (And I really enjoyed Melissa Banks’s book too — had almost forgotten about it since I read it such a long time ago.)

    1. Thank you! One of the best things about writing this blog is finding out that other people out int he wide world feel the same way about books as I do. It’s such a splendid thing!

  2. Raven-readers of the world unite. Oh, shiny, oh, shelves of picked up but not yet read … I really, really love the fact that you don’t rate the books you review. Three stars … four stars … for whom? on what day? I (almost) don’t read reviewers who do that.

  3. “I’m a raven that way.”

    I feel you, sister. I feel you.

    I adore this post as well! The best book reviews have nothing to do with stars and everything to do with putting away everything to finish a book.

  4. Just had to swing by (having read this post in my email) to say the same as the commenters above. LOVE this post. Brilliantly written. (Love the book too btw.)

  5. I use stars as guidelines, and a shorthand for approximately how much I liked it at the time. But reviews definitely don’t *need* them.

    The books you find by accident are always the best! :)

    1. I think movie reviews have really burned star rating systems for me. I never line up with a reviewer’s opinion, and then I come out of the movie theatre completely perplexed by the experience :) I would feel sad if I caused the same confusion amongst my book loving friends!

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