I am most assuredly not illiterate. But last week when a dear friend implored me to read a book so I wouldn’t make either one of us look like a buffoon when she introduced me to its author, I reacted as if she asked me to go to Buffalo Bill’s for a dinner party, and would I mind bringing a tiny white poodle in a bucket as my date.
Part of my panic was because of the fact that I had at least 1,400 other things to do and adding a 331-page book to be read in five days to the list felt a little overwhelming.
The other part was that I’m not always consistent about what I’m in the mood for and therefore motivated to read.
It’s not that I can’t read or understand big words (because by golly, dangnabit, I ser dew git thim big ‘uns). I was an English major with an honorary minor in reading and big words. Thesaurus’ are among my best friends.
And it’s rare that once I actually really start reading a book that I don’t become totally engrossed in it. That’s partly because when scouting a new book, I wisely survey people I admire for a few weeks, asking them to tell me the best book they’ve read in the last year.
I’ve found that having others vet my reading list greatly minimizes the chance for a dud. (I’d be more than happy to pass along the names of my committee members to the Obama administration.)
But right now the stack of unread and half-read books next to my bed is rivaling the proportions of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. With a new-ish baby, a job and a stubborn crusade to sleep at least 40 hours a week, the stack is likely to be the sole survivor in the event of a nuclear attack.
It’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Admittedly though, I feel a little lame for not making more time to do something so fundamental, and fun.
When I sat next to Jessica Lissy in Ms. Berry’s fourth grade class, she’d finish all of her work before lunchtime so she could sneak read Agatha Christie books for the rest of the day. (I’d always warn her to be careful she didn’t get caught, although I’m not sure what the punishment was for being smarter than the teacher in those days.)
For well over 20 years my mom has been part of a monthly book club. When it’s at her house she’s responsible not only for reading the book but researching the author and analyzing book reviews from leading publications across the country. In addition to her monthly book club selection, she has usually got one or two other books in rotation as well.
My sister polishes off books like she’s A-Rod shedding endorsement deals. Having a brand new puppy, a husband who travels a lot for work and three kids ranging from 21 months to 9 hasn’t slowed down her literary addiction, either.
I really do love to read. Few things beat getting wrapped up in a novel so good that you can’t wait until you can curl up on the couch or in bed again to find out what happens next, stopping only for sustenance, sterilization or shut-eye. When the book is really, really good, I force myself to read it extra slowly so it won’t end too soon. If it’s an official Oprah’s Book Club selection, even better.
These days, though, reading material with profound elements, like chapters, are totally off my radar. When I plop into bed at night I’m lucky if I can make it through the first picture gallery in Us Weekly before dozing off.
I could blame it on the struggles of balancing motherhood and a career, but it probably has more to do with the overwhelming desire to not think too much for at least a few waking minutes each day. Us Weekly happily ensures that will be the case. It’s actually part of their subscription guarantee.
Lately I’ve been missing the literature of my youth. Beverly Cleary’s Ramona books. Anything by Judy Blume. The Sweet Valley High series (Us Weekly for the ‘80s tween set). Something with pages that aren’t glossy but doesn’t require a whole lot of deep thought.
I started the book my friend gave me over the weekend and was waiting for it to grab me. Another friend said it would, but not until somewhere in the middle. So I kept trying to guesstimate when I might reach the middle and thus be grabbed. Needless to say my math skills are sharper than ever at the moment, but I’m only 49 pages into the book and free from any and all literary grasps.
I’ll finish it eventually. It’ll just have to wait in line at the bottom of the stack.
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