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Summer Novel

My summer novel: The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman. Described as a witty look into the offices of a failing English language newspaper in Rome. Glorious reviews. But very imperfect. It's a quick read, but almost instantly forgettable too. I'm just not sure I'm up for Peggy Steinfels's selection.....

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I was just given that book as a gift, and having read the reviews, was wondering if it could live up to such hype. Sounds right for the beach. But having worked in such a circumstance -- an English-language newspaper in Rome -- I suspect I'll be obnoxiously judgmental, or envious.

Be not afraid (of The Possessed), John. You are not a lit grad student. It's somewhat witty and not utterly forgettable. My Significant Other has just finished the Imperfectionists. Drat...it's on his Kindle so unless we can trade, there's no way I'll be able to read it.

"its on his Kindle so unless we can trade, theres no way Ill be able to read it."My wife and I have our Kindles linked to a single account. It means that the recommendation algorithms are completely befuddled, because our tastes are not always easily averageable, but our archives are available on each other's Kindle. We can't easily read a book at the same time (it's forever trying to move me to the page she's just read, and vice versa), but when she's done I can download a book to my device.

I just finished Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein." I'd never read it, but a couple of articles in the TLS and LRB evoked my interest. Quite a remarkable accomplishment for a 19-year-old, and I don't buy the argument that Percy Bysshe should be given co-authorship.

Mark: you'd have to do that from the beginning, right? We have discussed having a common Kindle but that seemed to requiring have a third, which seems a bit much.It's not that our reading desires are so different; he wants to read John Cassady and Steiglitz on mine and he'd like to read The Thousand Autumns....but we can't seem to coordinate a schedule. He has Tony Judt, Postwar on his (much lighter than the 800 pound book) but he is still reading it, and it will take forever. It sounds like one of those math problems, doesn't it?

The Kindle is one more minor sign of the impending end of civilization. I stoutly refuse to have such a wicked device although I am realist enough to know that they will inevitably mean the end of that most delicious of establishments: the bookstore. One of the ancillary benefits of books is that one keep one in the family room, another at the bedside, yet another at the breakfast table, still another in the car (to be read when eating alone), and, best of all, the joy of saying to a friend: here is a book I have read which you might enjoy. I love the comfort of having teetering piles of books all over the house. The Kindle? Bah!

You may be right Larry--or not. The gravest danger would be the loss of the bookstore for browsing. I try to do half and half. One for Kindle, one for the bookstore.And if I may point out: You can carry three thousand books on your Kindle and it doesn't change its weight. Easy to carry around the house or anywhere... And what? no books in the bathroom?

Peggy: did your Significant Other enjoy the Imperfectionists?

He seemed to find it engrossing.. but I'll ask.

Peggy: I think you can de-register and re-register your Kindle, so you could probably add yours to your husband's account or vice versa and share books serially. Unfortunately, I imagine you'd lose access to the books you'd bought on the abandoned account.Please note, however, that all the weasel words above ("I think", "probably", "I imagine") reflect the fact I don't really know what I'm talking about!As for the Kindle and the end of books, well, I don't know about that either. I still buy lots of books, and the Kindle has arguably broadened my reading interests (since every purchase is an impulse purchase, I read books I might otherwise toy with and put down in a bookshop).My first job out of graduate school (around 1980) was working for a division of Xerox, selling people the idea that "what you see is what you get" word processors promised the advent of the paperless office. It seemed inevitable at the time -- with rare exceptions, why would anyone want to print anything if they could bring up a perfect image of it on their screen whenever they wanted?

Joe K: I read Frankenstein years ago, during some twenty-something sojourn someplace when I had time to read, and did, a good deal. I was quite struck by it, and the scene of the Monster on the run hiding in the woodbin or something peeking in at the domestic scene he could never share has stuck with me. (I hope I recall it correctly; I may be wrong.) It was a very nice touch, and I can only surmise how it might connect to Mary Shelley. PS: I am tempted, incredibly, by the iPad. I suspect that will be the inevtiable future, but I envision it for periodicals and "throwaway" reads, like crime novels. Space has forced me to reduce the number of books I keep, and I think that's a good thing.

An iTouch is much cheaper and you can get a Kindle app to down load books. It's much smaller but it has perfectly readable text.

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About the Author

John T. McGreevy is the I.A. O'Shaughnessy Dean of the College of Arts and Letters and Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame.