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Thursday, August 18, 2005


I love books. I love reading. That is why my blog is named “Alaska Bookworm.”

My mother tells me my first sentence was “read-a-book.” I can believe it. I never quite feel complete without a book close at hand. (At the moment, the two I’m currently reading – “The News from Paraguay” by Lily Tuck, and “The Mists of Avalon” by Marion Zimmer Bradley – are about five inches away.)

Before I had children and was still working a desk-job, a colleague with three kids of her own warned me, “Once you have children you can kiss reading good-bye.”

In one of my few moments of steadfast determination and resolve, I refused to heed this warning. I now have four children and it is probably fair to say that everything I do – housework, relationships, hobbies – centers around getting in as much reading time as possible.

A year ago I started keeping a reading journal. In the front part, working towards the back, I jot observations about the books I’m reading. In the back, working towards the front, is a list of the actual books I’ve read and the month I finished it. At some point, somewhere in the middle, these two trains of jottings will meet, and the book will be full.

Between August 2004, when I started my journal, and July 2005 I read 81 books. This summer, between May and July, I read 30.

My top recommendations for the year are those books which either affected me emotionally or I thought particularly memorable. In no particular order, they are:
v “Winterdance,” by Gary Paulsen
v “Plan B,” by Anne Lamott
v “Shadow Divers,” by Robert Kurson
v “Ordinary Wolves,” by Seth Kantner
v “Riding the Bus with My Sister,” by Rachel Simon

Ten other especially good reads for the year include:
v “The Shadow of the Wind,” by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
v “The Plot Against America,” by Philip Roth
v “Robbing the Bees,” by Holley Bishop
v “Gilead,” by Marilynne Robinson
v “Blindness,” by Jose Saramago
v “The Meadow,” by James Galvin
v “Fluke,” by Christopher Moore
v “The Forest Lover,” by Susan Vreeland
v “Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell,” by Susannah Clarke
v “The Bone People,” by Keri Hulme

And finally, some books I had a hard time getting through, for various reasons:
v “Evenings at Five,” by Gail Godwin (a disappointment, because Godwin is one of my favorite authors and I was eagerly awaiting this book)
v “The Great Fire,” by Shirley Hazzard
v “Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination,” by Helen Fielding (I loved “Bridget Jones”!)
v “Holy Fools,” by Joanne Harris (I probably won’t try another book by Harris)
v “Nickel and Dimed,” by Barbara Ehrenreich (I loved the concept and some of her experiences were interesting, but I didn’t find her “experiment” convincing – too much cushion. Instead I would recommend “Random Family” by Nicole LeBlanc.)
v “The Mermaid Chair,” by Sue Monk Kidd (I liked “The Secret Life of Bees” – for more fascinating info on bees, see “Robbing the Bees,” by Holley Bishop)
v “I Am Charlotte Simmons,” by Tom Wolfe (I really like Tom Wolfe and really wanted to like this one, but it was just long and painful to get through. However, the upside is that Wolfe, as usual, offers a penetrating and thought-provoking, if not totally convincing, look at contemporary collegiate life.)

During the past year, I have started getting books from the library rather than the bookstore. This became necessary when I realized I’d been spending at least $100 per month on books for years. I must have been buying six books for every one I read. I tried to economize by hitting thrift stores and library sales, but it didn’t help – I only got more books for the same amount of money. I haven’t made an accurate count in awhile, but I figure I must have at least 1,000 books in my “to read” pile. Seven years ago, when Jack was born, there were only about 25. Now I’ve also got a library pile, but it only has 10 or so. With the deadline imposed by library due dates, there is more pressure to read faster, hence the 30 books just this summer. Almost all had due dates. Psychologically, I can’t make myself read my owned books until the library books are gone. (Harry Potter #6 was the exception.) IT WILL NEVER END!

I’m thankful for my family who forces me out of my little “book-world” and back into reality (such as it is). I am not sure why I love books and reading so much, though I suspect it’s genetic (I’m adopted and neither of my parents read much when I was growing up – how else to explain it?).

I’ve known a few other bibliophiles over the years, and am heartened to know I am not alone in my compulsion. Overall, reading is an inexpensive hobby (especially if you use the library!) and a great opportunity to experience the world and all that is in it. I credit my somewhat out-of-the-box personality on being challenged by others’ personal experiences and world-views. Like my reading-journal, with its simultaneous front and back entries eventually converging in the middle, a diverse diet of books brings balance to life.
My ultimate dream? To one day see my own name on the spine of a book.


At 9:47 AM, Blogger Gateway School and Learning Center said...

Okay sweetie,
If you have 1,000 books in your "to read" pile, don't you think you could skip the library and the bookstores and just read for about five years? It can't be the "to read" pile if you aren't planning on reading them-which is exactly what you're doing if you're getting more books to read instead.
Just an observation. I'm so glad you're my friend.

At 11:22 AM, Blogger Linda said...

I know it's pathetic, but there isn't a single book there that I wouldn't read. The problem is, more and more keep being published! Like the new John Irving, "The Historian," "The King's English," and many others that I can't live without. Part of buying them is to help me remember that I WANT to read them someday. Going to the library was a HUGE step.

At 3:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Linda,

I logged in using my blogger name, but I've forgotten my blogger password. Just wanted to say I enjoy your blog, and I'll take a look at Bruce's, too.

Thanks for the book recommendations. Great to see you guys at the wedding.


At 12:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i love jonathan strange.. i still re-read it sometimes..


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