I must confess, when I finish reading a book, it often feels like I’ve lost a good friend. I miss sitting down to read that book, and I worry that none will be able to replace it.
These days it takes me the full six weeks allowed by the library to get through a book. In part by choice, in part by circumstance.
I don’t have long periods of uninterrupted time to read. In fact, I’m lucky if I get through ten pages of the book on my nightstand before I get too tired and must turn out the light and go to sleep.
I’ve also discovered the pleasure of savoring a book over time. There is more time to ponder between readings, allowing for a more deliberate digestion of what I have read. If I read a book quickly, I never have to sit down and remember where I was, what just happened. That remembering locks the story in my mind and builds a place for the book in my heart. Ah, yes.
Here are some recent friends I have known and loved:
To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee) – Somehow I got through high school and four years of college (with a Bachelor of Arts degree, no less) without ever having to read this book. I listened to it when I went on my walks last summer, so when I think of it I see Ben riding his bicycle through the shady streets of our town while I tried to keep up with him, slow and pregnant as I was. The beginning of the book where it talked about their childhood play and the pranks they came up with seemed to have no point to it, so it took me a bit to get into it. Once they go to the trial, I was hooked. I still can’t believe, with all the books I’ve read, both for school and on my own, that I hadn’t read this one.
Under the Tuscan Sun (Frances Mayes) – Steve claims we’ve watched the movie based on this book, but somehow I don’t remember. [I’ve heard the book is far superior to the movie anyway.] I loved hearing how they renovated the abandoned villa they bought and all the treasures they discovered in the process. Her chapters on Italian cooking were a little dry at first, but now I’m all into making simple Italian food.
This book also inspired the new tradition at our house of taking a siesta after lunch. I am usually working in the evening after the children are in bed so it is hard to find time to read; but an hour spent with a few books after lunch really does make a difference in making my days delightful. When we go to the library, I get a stash of new books for Ben to read, and he gets a new book when it’s time for siesta. The boys even ask me now if we can have siesta – I never turn them down.
Black Boy (Richard Wright) – I found this book fascinating. It wasn’t about the typical black who thinks the white man has got him down. Rather, the author naively doesn’t understand why he should be treated any differently in situation after situation, and the fact that he is treated differently seems to catch him off guard time and time again. Everyone else [other black people, that is] seems to have simply resigned themselves to their fate, but he keeps trying to do things that are unthought of simply because he doesn’t think about whether or not they would be proper for him to do.
Many times I have wondered if race relations in this country would be different if there were a lot more “Black Boy’s” out there. I am not black, so I cannot say I’ve walked a mile in their shoes. But what would happen if the people who seem to have the chip on their shoulder instead put their focus on just going out and doing whatever they would do if they were “equal” with white people. I will never forget, after Obama was elected, hearing Whoopi Goldberg on The View saying that there was no longer an excuse for blacks not being able to do whatever they wanted, that young black boys need to ‘get off the couch, pull up their pants, and go out and do something!’
I realize that racism is real, and that people sometimes are held back just because of the color of their skin. But how much more would they be able to accomplish if they went out like Mr. Wright and tried to do things than if they just sat around complaining about how they’re being held back because of the color of their skin? How much racism is assumed and how much is real? If we could get rid of the assumed racism, how much racism would be left over?
True Compass (Edward Kennedy) – I am not a liberal, so I must confess that I am not a particular fan of Mr. Kennedy. I read his memoir, though, because I wanted to better understand where he came from, to better understand how “the other side” often sees things. Having grown up after John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy, there were a lot of things I learned in this book about the Kennedy family. I did not realize the family was so large, that Ted Kennedy was the youngest of all the siblings. I enjoyed getting to know this family I have heard so much about.
It was interesting hearing the stories of how various people rose to power [and were subsequently replaced] in the Senate. I learned more about many people whose names I’ve heard of [Dulles Airport, Hoover Dam] but did not know why they were “name-worthy.” Though I still do not agree with Mr. Kennedy’s opinions on many issues, I did come away with a better understanding of why he was passionate about various legislative issues, such as health care and other entitlement programs. I wonder how many of my liberal friends might also find themselves similarly enlightened if they were to read Going Rogue by Sarah Palin.
The Sound and the Fury (William Faulkner) – I listened to this while on our daily walks last summer, after I finished To Kill a Mockingbird. I can’t say I got much out of this book, but I’m really glad I listened to it rather than trying to read it. It’s one of those that you just kind of have to take for what it is. Listening to it while walking allowed me to follow the story wherever it went rather than trying to make some kind of sense out of it. I now can say I’ve ‘read’ Faulkner and am familiar with his ‘style.’ Very interesting, to say the least.
My Antonia and O Pioneers! (Willa Cather) – These, too, I listened to while on our daily walks. Very good reads, simple story lines yet very engaging. I enjoyed them both very much. I liked learning a bit more about Nebraska history and life on the plains during the pioneer days. How the various pioneers dealt with challenges the land brought them made life on the prairie seem so much more real – instead of being ‘pioneers’ they were individuals with weaknesses and strengths just like I see in people today. Both very good reads.
Finally, currently on my bookshelf…
Chewing the Cud (Dick King-Smith)
The Facts: A Novelist’s Autobiography (Philip Roth)
Keeping Faith: A Father and Son Story About Love and the United States Marine Corps (Frank and John Schaeffer)
Things Fall Apart (Chinua Achebe)
The Year of Magical Thinking (Joan Didion)
and on my iPod…
The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald)
All Quiet on the Western Front (Erich Maria Remarque)
Three Cups of Tea (Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin)