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The books read at a certain age, for me between 10 and 13 years old, can be permanently stamped on your psyche.  I became a real reader at this age, with the loving and supportive help of two very literary teachers. Interestingly these fine ladies, upon retirement, took jobs at the local library.  I can’t think of a better suited job for either of them, seeing as they introduced me to my own love of reading. 

As a young girl I read everything I could get my hands on (sound familiar?) and read at the speed of lightning (again, any surprises there?).  In my opinion reading begets reading.  It’s The Neverending Story come to life – as soon as you finish one there is another hovering in the wings.  You don’t want to stop, you might missing the next adventure.  This is also the place in my life where reading became how I made sense of the world.  When you are a young adult, navigating the confusing new currents of adolescence, processing the end of childhood and the anticipating the looming seriousness of the world of adults, fantasy has special something to offer.  At a time when you feel most impotent and insignificant, confused and lost, stories of seemingly ordinary kids doing extraordinary things is a welcome escape.  Who can forget poor Wart, who doesn’t even know that underneath all those skinny limbs and dirty clothes he’s a KING!  It doesn’t get any better.

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“I’m not a Starcatcher anymore, James.  I’m a mother of three and the wife of a prominent barrister who does not approve of talk of starstuff and evil creatures and the like.  Childhood fantasies, he calls them.”

These are the words of Molly Darling, nee Molly Aster, a hero in the previous Peter installment, Peter and the Secret of Rundoon.  Now, I’m not here to disparage wives and mothers, especially now that I’m both of those things.  But I reserve the right to mock a formerly powerful girl who not only worries about, but abides by what her uptight, self-righteous husband “approves” of.

Thankfully the lady doth protest too much and by the beginning of the next chapter has embroiled herself in the dangerous adventure that threads through the book.

But Wendy, she’s another story.

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My mother’s reading habits are less like Jesse’s and more like mine.  She reads quickly, broadly and plentifully (is that a word? spell check says it is).  This, in addition to our generally similar test, and our always similar distaste in fiction make us especially good reading partners. 

She and I exchange books so often that we don’t always remember whose book it was originally.  We also share with many others in the family and with select friends, so it can get confusing.  For instance she recently recommended a book to my sister-in-law that my sister-in-law had given to me which I then passed on to my mom. 

Further, sometimes we want the books back, sometimes we don’t care where they end up.  So we have a system.  Anything we want back we put our address label inside.  Anything we don’t want is blank.  Apparently though, somewhere along the way, we needed some improvements on this system.  I went to my mom’s house the other day and saw a familiar book on the table.  I picked it up and read the back and thought “Hey, this sounds like a good read.”  I looked inside and found a post-it note in my own handwriting:

“You have read this book before.  And yes, you need the reminder.”

I laughed so hard I had tears in my eyes.  The funniest part is, that neither she nor I can remember who the note was for.  Clearly we’ve both read the book before and at least one of us (if not both) has attempted to read it again.  So it’s entirely possible she is currently reading it for a third time – and enjoying it.  I might even take it from her when she’s done.

What does this have to do with A New Mom’s Guide to Reading?   Rereading!

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Forgive me, readers, for two things.  One, for being absent for so long, and two, for being self-indulgent and explaining away my absence.  Humor me, it’s relevant (sort of).

Toward the end of the summer I took a new job and simultaneously, somehow, and totally on purpose, I found myself knocked up (no oops there, but I do wonder at my timing). So between the working, the throwing up, the commuting, the being exhausted and the studying for the MBA which suddenly seems much less important, I haven’t had time to crack a book for enjoyment since.

This, I have discovered, is a very unhealthy place for me to be.  My body is having a hard enough time keeping down food (like some women, I’ve lost weight in my first trimester).  This is no time for my soul also to be lacking in (literary) nourishment.

This baby may not end up being a reader, though with nature (on both sides) and nurture (on all sides) I don’t see how that will be possible.  Regardless of how he or she turns out, it will not be from lack of a steady diet of stories.

Starting now.

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spiderwick

I was looking forward to Christmas this year, unlike many years past. It is a children’s holiday after all, and this is the first year I had children in my life (small ones, not the tweens who don’t give a shit unless you give them electronics).  The spirit of giving was certainly overflowing, and I enjoyed every new gift (I mean, book, since, as Jesse noted, they make the best presents).  So what if I was buying them for babies, they need to get started on the right foot. Yes, even my unborn niece got some, the biggest stack in fact! 

Due to some health issues (mental and physical) I wasn’t up for huge amounts of family this year.  So despite my new found love for the holiday, Tim and I escaped to Vermont.  As I’ve mentioned before, whenever I travel it’s hard to know what books to bring.  I’ve been on a historical biography kick lately, but that isn’t very, well, Christmasy.  Perhaps it was all the time spent in the children’s section buying for the babies, but I wanted storybooks to read on my mini vacation.  But where to find just the right stories?  I had a tall order: they had to be  1) smart 2) funny and 3) engaging.   That just about rules out all adult books, so off to the YA section I went.

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Cover ImageI bought this book thinking of Jesse, and how it would be a great book to read together.  And then I remembered that Jesse is MIA, on this blog but also in real life.  No worries, he’s alive and well but apparently distracted from blogging for the moment.  I will send him this link and perhaps I can guilt, I mean, lure him back in.

This book was indeed the perfect book for us to have read together.  So much so that I will probably be mailing it to him with the demand that he read it, like, immediately and report back.  In the meantime I’ll be on to something else. 

In other words, exactly how we used to be about books.  I would recommend a book to Jesse and he would read it, many many months later, at which point I would have forgotten entirely what it was about or what my feelings or thoughts on it were.

Sigh.

I think it’s a neat phenomenon though, this idea of buying books with other people in mind.  It certainly broadens one’s experience to pick up a book that you would choose for someone else and to read it yourself.  I have done this with many times with Jesse and it has never led me astray (with other folks it has.  Beware, you have to chose your reading muses carefully).  It’s different too, than reading a book and thinking “So and so would like this very much.”  It’s sort of a premeditated book choice instead of a referral.

It’s another way that reading can be a social, communal activity, even though the other person might not even know you are thinking of them.  I’d advise if you do this, to let the other person know – “this book made me think of you.” 

Unless of course it’s something along the lines of Tuesdays with Morrie

That’s just mean.

I read an article this morning in the latest Horn Book Magazine about Peter Pan.  In the article, Peter Pan. I am he. I am not, the author, Emily Jenkins, mourns the fact that while the stage version of the story allows for girls to imagine they are Peter Pan, the book and Disney movie version did not.  This saddens her.  She describes her extreme dislike of Wendy and her love for Peter thus:

“I couldn’t bear to be boxed in as Wendy boxes herself, with Peter’s complicity: she sews on pockets and prepares meal in the underground lair, spending her Neverland time playing Edwardian household rather than having adventures.  I didn’t want to be her, I wanted to be Peter.  And therefore I wanted to be a boy.”

When I was younger I thought I was the only little girl to feel this way.  To be indignant that the boys got the snakes and snails and puppy dog’s tails (the greatest injustice, for I loved puppies) and girls were left with sugar and spice and everything nice (yes, I loved sugar, but as much as puppies? No way!).  I now know many women who felt that way.  To know that it’s not weird and that these are the women I tend to respect more anyway is a a great validation. 

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I have a really hard time choosing books for trips.   What you may ask, just take one of the three books you are currently reading!  Ah, but you would be quite mistaken.  First, I am very likely (unless I just started it) to finish any of them while in the middle of the trip (or worse, halfway through a plane flight).  Second, especially on a vacation, I want to bring something new and potentially exciting.  I don’t want the same old book I’ve been reading before bed.  I want a vacation book!

So alright, I’ll bring an entirely new book.  Except well, that too leaves me open to problems.  What if, on the plane on the way there, I decide I’m not really that “into” the book I brought.  Perhaps I brought the wrong book for the mood (often a hard thing to gauge when one embarks on a journey) or maybe the book just stinks.  Then what?

Let me try this again. Clearly new books are the way to go, but I’ll need a backup.  To be safe probably two backups.  Of course if I’m going on a trip of more than a few days, one with some downtime for reading, I will likely read one book at least, so to be quite certain I’ll need three backups. 

OK got it.  Four new books. Read the rest of this entry »

SDThe pressures of Ms. Prose notwithstanding (yes, she has a point; she’s just sending me in the wrong direction), my goal with this blog was to slow down my reading. To allow myself to digest what I am reading. To pause and enjoy each story for itself, as a journey instead of a notch on my bookshelf. Though it may not seem like it, I have actually slowed down considerably.

I still read a lot because reading is what I love to do. It’s what relaxes me; it keeps me sane. It makes all that time spent inside my own head not only normal but productive. I used to think I was weird, but I’m beginning to realize I’m not abnormal. Just perhaps in the wrong profession. I’m sure I would love to hang out with popular fiction writers (except Robert B. Parker who is a notorious – and arrogant – non reader. Could be why his books stink). Earlier this week I read an article about J.K. Rowling and her words only solidified my love for her:

“I never need to find time to read. When people say to me, ‘Oh, yeah, I love reading. I would love to read, but I just don’t have time,’ I’m thinking, ‘How can you not have time?’ I read when I’m drying my hair. I read in the bath. I read when I’m sitting in the bathroom. Pretty much anywhere I can do the job one-handed, I read.”

Exactly.

 

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Cover Image

What to read next? It’s probably one of the most exciting and frustrating questions a reader can ask.  It’s a tough question.  Tougher still if you are a discerning reader looking for something new and interesting. 

Though I like a good mind candy, beach read book as much as the next person, I’m a little more demanding when it comes to “good reads.” If it’s currently on the NYT bestseller list (Harry Potter being the exception), I don’t read it.  If I see more than two people on the subway reading, I skip it.  If it’s in the top 100 on Amazon or Barnes and Noble, I’ll pass.  A good website for fiction for the anti-masses is bas bleu though they have been known to be very wrong (the Hazards of Good Breeding and Lucy are two notable examples). 

The safest bet is to ask other reader friends.  Reading is an experience made more enjoyable by sharing.  The simple phrase “You gotta read this!” makes what is necessarily a solitary activity suddenly a social one.  It’s the one thing guaranteed to drag us – hard core readers that is – out of our shells.  We hold up our titles like recent travellers with a photo album.  We want others to read – to see what we saw and to live what we lived.

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Jessica’s Reading

Jesse’s Reading

Jesse and Jessica are Both Reading

Devin’s Reading

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