I have been trying to be more dedicated about reading. I used to be an avid reader. It makes me sad to say “ I used to be”. I was so excited to read when I was four and couldn’t wait for kindergarten. All through my childhood I devoured books. As a teenager, I would stay up all night because I couldn’t put a book down. I could finish monumental books, of a thousand pages, like Gone with the Wind, in a matter of days (I also read a lot of Jude Devoreaux... teehee). In college, during winter breaks, I would average about a book a day (loved Herman Hesse, Kafka, and Dostoyeksky).
My life is fuller now and I have to delicately balance much more: there are other obligations to be met, relationships to be nurtured, and even other interests (running, cooking) that have to weigh in. Graduate school also took a toll on my lust for reading. After reading so much for classes, the last thing I wanted to do in my free time was pick up a book. And there was so much guilt if I picked up a book for pleasure, because graduate reading is never really finished, there is always more to read, more to learn.
Yet, recently, I have found myself yearning for good books, wanting to lose myself in someone else’s story, desiring to learn about something fascinating, longing for that sense of awe when wandering around a bookstore and thirsting for that sense of urgency to finish other bothersome obligations so I can get back to a book. So, I have started reading… again… in earnest.
The hardest part, after such a prolonged absence, is choosing a book. There is something about not having endless hours to read that makes me want to choose something worthwhile, something well-written, a kind of quality that resonates in your heart and resounds in your mind for years when you think of the book, something I will not gladly give up after 50 pages (like the Diary of Anais Nin… why, oh why can I not get into that book, when I so want to?) Yet, I also want a good story, something to lose myself in for a few hours when the house is dark and quiet, something that will be difficult to put down…
Clearly, I am not that much of a book snob… I did read this series over Thanksgiving weekend. But after years studying literature academically, I do have some elitist notions about “good literature”, so choosing books is sometimes difficult for me. I have been out of the reading loop, the real avid reading loop, for so long that it has been a struggle to put together a reading list of books that I want to read. This is further complicated by reading reviews of books online. I am on Goodreads, which has been both a bane and a benefit as far as choosing books. It has given me tons of ideas. But then I read the reviews of perfectly random strangers and I get cold feet. Negative reviews can be wrong though.
In the past few weeks I have read:
Life of Pi… and despite all of my literary training, I took the story at face value, a boy and a tiger in a life-raft. I liked it that way, no need for allegories of any kind.
Julie and Julia… and I was not irked that it was less about food and more about her personal crisis at 30.
The Heretic’s Daughter… brilliant, fascinating and it did not bother me one bit that it was written from the point of view of a young girl; there was nothing missing from the story.
Now I am reading Comfort Me with Apples (interested in food memoirs right now for some reason, but Reichl’s first memoir was not in at the library) and Middlesex.
I am sometimes skittish about giving book recommendations… I mean, if you ask me about a specific book that I have read and have memory of reading, I will tell you if I liked it or not… but if you ask: “what should I read?” I’ll say Brothers Karamazov or Anna Karenina or something and you’ll look at me crazy and never ask me again. But I always notice book recommendations of others and look them up, write them down. I have siphoned titles from other blogs I read that have mentioned books or asked for recommendations. I have even asked several blogging friends about what good books they have read recently and I am putting together a bit of a list.
So, recommendations? what do you got for me? I need a long list, because between the library and the used bookstore, it is luck of the draw.
I’ll even be brave and give you one: The God of Small Things (Roy, A.) –poignant story, beautifully written—even the title is heart-stopping.