Monday, February 4, 2013

I Read

I love to read, and I read a lot. There is nothing about reading I don’t like. I love the feel of a new book in my hands. I love the thrill of reading that first page. I love the feeling of completion when I finish the last page. I love shopping for books, unboxing books I’ve ordered and putting them on my shelves. I love recommending books. I even love culling books I’ve outgrown or know I’ll never read. I wish I could read more. I wish I could read for a living.

So, I think it’s time to bring my love of books and reading to this space. I’ve created several sets of questions about reading that I’ll provide answers to. When this foundation has been set, I’ll chronicle my lists of books read in 2012. And moving forward, I plan to post individual reviews for each book I read in 2013.

I invite you to comment if you, too, are an avid reader—even if we don’t read the same kinds of books.

Reading – The Basics

When did you learn to read? / Were you read to as a child? / Did you love to read as a child?
I don’t remember learning to read, but to be sure, it was in first grade, not at home. I don’t remember ever being read to as a child. We had Little Golden Books and various other picture books that were gifts from grandparents and great aunts, but there weren’t many books in our home. We had two sets of outdated encyclopedias and my father had a few rows of books (mostly Reader’s Digest editions) he’d acquired when he was in the Navy, but there wasn’t much reading being done at home. My father read westerns later in life, and one of my brothers enjoys reading now, but I have never seen my mother or oldest brother read a book.
   I hated reading as a child. I could never find a book that was interesting to me. Ever. Had I known that nonfiction books existed, I’m sure I would have become a reader much earlier in life. As it was, I didn’t learn to enjoy reading until late high school or college. And I didn’t love it until I was living in a studio apartment post-college graduation and I discovered memoirs.

You were an English major—you must have read a lot of classics then, huh?
Sadly, no. Here is a list of the classics I’ve read, and beside each, whether I read it willingly or under duress, and if I remember the book or not:

Dubliners, James Joyce – for class, remember liking it a great deal, don’t remember the stories at all
Little Women, Louisa May Alcott – willingly, loved it, remember it
A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams – willingly, liked it, don’t really remember it
Death of a Salesman, Arthur Miller – for class, thought it was okay, don’t remember it
The Stranger, Albert Camus – for class, hated it, don’t remember it
Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank – willingly, liked it, don’t really remember it
In Our Time, Ernest Hemingway – for class, liked it, don’t remember it at all
Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman – willingly?, liked it?, don’t remember it
The Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger – willingly, don’t remember much of it
To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf – for class, enjoyed it, don’t remember it
The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck – for class, loved it, sort of remember it
The Iliad, Homer – under duress, hated it, don’t remember it
The Odyssey, Homer – under duress, hated it, don’t remember it
The Aeneid, Virgil – under duress, hated it, don’t remember it
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce – for class, loved it, don’t really remember it
Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen – willingly, loved it, even though I read it recently, I don’t remember it
As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner – for class, loved it, sort of remember it
To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee – for class, don’t remember the book, only the movie
Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad – under duress, hated it, don’t remember it
The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane – under duress, hated it, don’t remember it
Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte – willingly, loved it, don’t remember it
Hamlet, Shakespeare – for class, I don’t get Shakespeare, don’t remember it
Macbeth – for class, didn’t care for it, don’t remember it
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, William Shakespeare – for class, didn’t like it, don’t remember it
Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison – for class, liked it at the time, barely remember it
Great Expectations, Charles Dickens – for class, loved it, don’t remember it

How many books do you read in a year?
I average for the past eight years has been 27. This past year I wanted to push myself, though, and set a goal of 50. I read 55.

My eight-year stats:
55 books – 2012
32 books – 2011
14 books – 2010
21 books – 2009
25 books – 2008
15 books – 2007
37 books – 2006
17 books – 2005

How many hours per day do you read?
I read about two hours per day: on my lunch break (45 minutes), on my afternoon break (20 minutes), and in the evening in front of the TV (one hour, plus).

How many books do you read at a time?
One. For me, reading just doesn’t seem like a good place to apply multitasking. I’d much rather give one book my whole attention for a few days than to divide my time among books.

Why do you read? Why do you read so much?
I read to make sense of the world and its people. I read for information and inspiration. I read so much because I like the feeling of opening myself up to change again and again.

What do you like to read?
I read memoirs and nonfiction, poetry, and the occasional Jane Austen novel. My favorite topics include:
families, marriage, womanhood, motherhood/parenting; faith, religions;  cooking, eating, gardening, farming, sustainability;  de-cluttering and downsizing; The Middle East, Asia, France; and books about books. I also enjoy cookbooks, home decorating books, and children’s picture books. I really enjoy “project” books where the author takes on a project and writes about completing it.

What would you never read?
I’ll (almost) never read fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, romance, or children’s lit (except picture books). I shy away from books about murder, rape, child abuse, homosexuality, health modalities, and mental illness. 

Why don’t you like fiction?
Simply put, I don’t feel like I learn anything about human nature from fiction. There’s nothing there I can connect with. Everyone can make up a story, but I like real stories. I like to know what people think, how they live, why they do the things they do. Fiction isn’t close enough to real life for me. Plus, there is just a whole lot of bad fiction writing out there.

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