Sunday, September 4, 2011


I feel like I should explain the book thing.  I have a bit of a reading problem. My to-read list is so long that if it weren’t digital I’d need an entire room to fit all of the books. I read any spare moment I can. I have become annoyed when there is a good show to watch on TV because it’s 23 less minutes of reading time. My sleep patterns are affected and my husband has to force me to turn off the light and go to bed.

The problem started when I was young and my mom gave me The Diary of Anne Frank. I was floored. Literally, my mom had to pick me off the floor when I finished the book. I went for more lighthearted material after that. I loved books that told a relatable story free of any real conflict. I liked contemporary works, no fantasy or sci fi, and only occasionally would I read an historical fiction. I read books about ballet (my sister and I tore through the Satin Slippers Series), Sweet Valley High, and other sugar coated nonsense that makes you want to brush your teeth now, but it was perfect for us back then.

In high school I read Jane Austen for the first time, and I practically fell out of my chair. I love Jane Austen. I’ve read everything she ever wrote. I’ve read Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Emma dozens of times each. I read them at least once a year because I like to visit my old friends.

From there it was the Bronte sisters, then Dickens, then Forster, then Wilde, then Tolstoy, and then I thought I should probably read something by Americans, so I read Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry James and some others.

Anyway, I was a classics girl right up to college, where I stopped reading novels. I call this the dark ages because there was just no way to read for pleasure with a full college course load. If I read anything outside of the required reading list, it was biographies or memoirs of the people we studied, or non-fiction about relevant events.

I did read one non-school related book in college.  My sorority sisters passed The Divine Secrets of the YaYa Sisterhood around so we could each learn the secrets. We would stare significantly into each other’s eyes like the YaYas did. But that was it. The one novel I read in college.

After college I reread A Room with a View by E. M. Forster when I was traveling through Italy, which was perfect because the book starts with a girl touring Florence, and my love of reading was renewed.

And then the real world hit, and thank God for books or I would have to cross oceans to find my happy place. There they were, my old friends Austen and the Bronte sisters (not Anne, the other two), waiting for me to pick them up again and visit. Oh, to be in a world where a girl’s biggest problem was the man she was going to marry!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I live now when I have, you know, choices and the vote, but still, it’s romantic and simpler.

So then I started reading IMPORTANT books. I was a college graduate and a teacher, so I had to be serious and read serious, adult things that MATTERED. So I read Ken Follett and Ken Kesey and Toni Morrison and others. But the books by those authors are not an escape. Those books are work. They are not fun, but they aren’t supposed to be. They are significant commentaries on the human condition and they matter, but I’d rather read about vampires.

I still read literary fiction (although I couldn’t get through the latest Jonathan Franzen book – ugh, depress me as much as possible why don’t you?!), but what I like best are the transformative, coming of age stories that are present in most young adult literature.

I love the Harry Potter books. Love them. If I could do it all over I would go to Hogwarts and be in Ravenclaw and play exploding snap and transfigure things. But I can’t, because it’s not real, so instead I’ll read about Harry. This is another series that has me jumping out of my seat I love it so much.

My real problem started with the Twilight Series. I’m going to be blunt and tell you that whatever you think about these books, they are a gateway drug series and have helped the YA lit market explode. More YA books are being published than ever before, and people of all ages are enjoying these stories. YA lit is about teens, but it is not written solely for teens. Most of the best books I’ve read lately are considered YA lit. If you want to know more, check out the Forever Young Adult webpage. They are brilliant.

So, the Twilight Series. I love it. I know it’s cheezy and misogynistic, but it’s also a well-told story. I love the characters and the world that Stephanie Myers created. So, although I wouldn’t have made the same choices that Bella did (Team Go-To-College-And-Get-Your-Own-Life), I like seeing her struggle through the consequences of those choices. I love how Myers writes about love. It’s so pure. It’s also limited and less complicated than real love, but it’s a fantasy.

Speaking of fantasy, a few years ago I realized that there was a whole world of great books out there that I never picked up because I thought I didn’t like fantasy. Obviously if I liked Harry Potter and Twilight, I might like others. So, my world opened up. I will read any dystopia you put in front of me. I will read about vampires and werewolves and fallen angels and magic. But no fairies. I draw the line at fairies.

If you haven’t read the Hunger Games yet, you need to. Now. Not because it’s trendy and there is a movie coming out, but because it’s good and it’s a significant commentary on the sacrifices, strategies, struggles, and choices that are made because of war.

When I think about it, the fact that I read mostly YA lit is not surprising. I’ve always loved these stories. Jane Austen’s main characters are in their early 20s at most. And what more fantasy is there than regency-era England? It’s all fantasy, it’s all an escape.

I’m always searching for the next thing that will force me out of the furniture. It started with Anne Frank, continued to all of Jane Austen’s work, then Harry and Bella and Katniss entered my life.  I love reading a new book, hoping it will be the next thing that renders me chairless.

I’ll probably talk a lot about the books I’ve read on here. It’s my candy, so I hope you want to share with me.

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