The picture shows my mother reading to us kids on a Saturday night—maybe around 1951 or 1952. As you can see, being read to evidently gave us headaches as we all had to have our little heads tied up in bandanas. (Actually, the bandanas held rows of bobby-pinned curls in place so we would have pretty hair for church on Sunday. We were a very wholesome family.)
In elementary school, we had a large bookshelf in the back of the classroom. When we were done with our work, we had permission to read library books. I think I read every book on the shelves including every single Laura Ingalls Wilder book, all the Bobsey Twins books, and any Nancy Drew book I could lay my hands on. I think I read most of them twice. When I ran out of books to read, I remember just making up stories and telling them to whomever would listen.
Way back on September 21, 2008, I put together a list of books I planned to read, and I am happy to report that I have almost read my way through the list! I’ve read a couple of Donna Tartt’s books (Secret History and The Little Friend). I’ve already written about some of the books I read: Animal, Vegetable, Mineral (Barbara Kingsolver), Bel Canto (Patchett), Geek Love (Dunn), and Maus (Speigelman).
Three of the books I had planned to read were MIA. The library’s computer tells me that life isn’t always easy on the shelves either. Me Talk Pretty One Day (Sedaris) is always checked out and has a waiting list (even books have stressful, busy lives). And Same Kind of Different (Hall & Moore) is a victim of battered-book syndrome and is currently in the repair shop. A book I wanted to read by Peter Straub (Ghost) was reported as missing or stolen from the bookmobile, so I have visions of its current life on the run, living out of a car, perhaps hidden under a pile of fast-food wrappers.
I’ve read some very strange books including Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal (Moore), The Quality of Life Report (Daum), Magic Terror (Straub), Life of Pi (Martel), and Special Topics in Calamity Physics (Pessl).
I’ve read some interesting non-fiction books: The Worst Hard Time (Egan), Little Heathens (Kalish), Freakonomics (Levitt and Dubner), Reading Lolita in Tehran (Nafisi), and Three Cups of Tea (Mortenson).
And I’ve read a couple of books that really made me stop and think: The Road (McCarthy), Blindness (Saramago), and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Safran). I’ve currently got A People’s History of the U.S. (Zinn) and plan to read it on the way to Arizona.
I’m currently working on my new reading list because that makes it easier to decide what to read next in a world where 57 million books are published every minute. Maybe the list will include A Hope in the Unseen (Suskind), A Long Way Gone (Beah), Breakfast of Champions (Vonnegut), For One More Day (Alborn), Odd Girl Out (Simmons) . . . Oh, my gosh! So many books, so little time. I might have to start reading faster.