Time to read

I can’t even count the number of times people have said to me, “How do you find time to read all those books?”

I always want to respond, “How do you not find time to read books?” I don’t say that because it seems a bit rude to assume other people share my addiction, but still, I wonder.

Each time I choose a book, it is like opening a present. Reading feeds my soul, gives me respite from my day, allows me to travel through time and space. Books allow me to connect with people from all over the world. How can anyone not make time in their lives for that?

I was born into a world of books. My earliest memories include noticing fat paperback novels next to my dad’s ashtray and thumbing through my mom’s collection of Kahlil Gibran poems before I could make sense of the words. I do not read books, so much as devour them. In fact, my mother tells me that as a toddler I would not go to bed without a book. By morning I had torn out each page. I am convinced this was my early attempt at reading.

Throughout my childhood and teen years, my need to read continued. No matter how much homework I had, or how long rehearsals went, the day could not end without sometime time spent reading for enjoyment. College was harder. My class load and devotion to theatre took up too much of my time. I felt the lack of fiction acutely.  I grew depressed and ached for home, craving childhood comforts like rereading the Trixie Belden series in my own bed.

Now, as mom to three school-age boys, “Not enough time” comes with the territory. And still, I read. Books – fiction, memoir, narrative non-fiction – have become more important to me than ever.  They provide escape from spelling words and basketball scores. They enrich dinner-table topics and provide fodder for actual adult conversation. I am as likely to discuss the latest Ann Patchett novel as I am the merits of standardized testing. That is a good thing.

I am proud to pass this legacy on to my sons. The local library is as familiar to them as it is to me. My living room tables and shelves exist under piles of books and magazines. More than once I’ve had to say, “Don’t’ read when you’re going down the stairs.” Best of all, my sons end their days books in hand, travelling to distant places before dream-sleep ever sets in.

I breathe and eat to stay alive. I read to feel alive.

THE FAULT IN OUR STARS — Worth all the buzz

I don’t often read YA novels because the tend to be overly dramatic (too much pathos for me), but The Fault in Our Stars has so much buzz surrounding it, with so many of my friends raving, that I decided to give it a try. I am so glad I did because John Green has created something quite special here.

Hazel and Augustus are remarkable teenagers, partly because they have stared death in the eye and keep going. They are able to discuss illness, cancer and death in ways that are funny, enlightening and, yes, tragic. But beyond that, they are both literate — dropping quotes, poetry and existential questions about quality of life into every day conversation. (In fact, my one complaint is that I don’t know anyone, teen or adult, who talks the way these characters do.) But, in the context of the novel, it works.

From the start, we know that the author is taking a slightly different approach to terminal cancer. “This Support Group featured a rotating cast of characters in various states of tumor-driven unwellness. Why did the cast rotate? A side effect of dying.” I was surprised to find myself laughing out loud at several points. I was not surprised to also find my heart broken, inevitable given the subject matter.

I feel about this book sort of the way Hazel feels about Augustus.
“As he read, I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.”


It’s a basic but still weird fact about books that two people’s experiences of the same book can be radically different but equally valid. On the face of it it doesn’t seem possible. When we read a book and find that it sucks, that doesn’t feel like a personal judgment on our part, it feels like an observed fact that everybody else who reads that book should acknowledge — and if they don’t acknowledge it, that means that they suck. It goes against our instincts as a reader that two people can have opposite reactions to a book, and that both reactions can be true.

Lev Grossman (via millionsmillions)