My time is a wild animal resisting domestication. A casualty of that has been my hard-to-shake belief that reading for pleasure was a luxury during this time and place of motherhood.
To sit still and travel, to be unavailable while fully visible, to ignore the now, to bathe in someone else’s imagination felt and feels decadent, and too often the to-dos make me feel unworthy of such extravagance.
When young, I would devour fiction, consuming worlds at a pace that sometimes meant the beauty of entire swaths of words was sacrificed to gobble plot and character.
But I grew up and responsibilities and goals took over, or were thrust upon me. Read for school. Build a resume for college. Learn for work. Keep reading for work.
When I taught, almost all reading was career-focused: either trade publications or young adult novels that I could share with the students, or whatever the texts I had to teach that year. Even summer was awash in reading for others.
I am not proud of this literary lapse.
I suppose it was the heady, panicked sacrifice of “me time,” and then the sacrifice of not sleeping well for years due to early motherhood. I had no focus or energy. Once the kids were asleep, if I sat down, I fell asleep. I could read short pieces in spare moments, but I had no time nor ability to retain any information from a longer piece. Fiction didn’t interest me as I could barely make sense of my own reality.
It was a fallow period.
No wonder I couldn’t write. I wasn’t nourishing myself as a reader, and I decided to stop that nonsense this year. I tiptoed back into it, starting with books I could justify as helping my career or my volunteer work, then I allowed myself to completely sink into books that had no practical application whatsoever other than nudging me in all the right places.
I still struggle to find time to read, mind you. But I insist on thirty minutes a day, minimum. No maximum. No excuses.
Here are some highlights of what I enjoyed reading this year:
- Nora Ephron’s Crazy Salad and Scribble Scribble: Some Things About Women: A complaint on Goodreads is that this book is dated. I think that’s part of the fascination and charm for me, the ability to see certain parts of feminism in its second wave tween years. She wrote with a voice familiar to me, educated East Coast Jew who is highly amused by the whole rotten thing.
- Erma Bombeck’s Family – the Ties that Bind and Gag and am in the throes of Forever, Erma (which I am in the final pages of): The later more easily fits into my “sometimes I only have five minutes to read” lifestyle, but both are warm and hilarious and better than almost any “mommy blog” out there.
- The Second Coming by W.B. Yeats: I never thought I’d be one to read poetry on purpose. It seemed the stuff of English class and academia. What I fool I’ve been.
- Geek Love: Years after it took the world by storm, I plowed through this book with curiosity and hunger and a bit of reader’s vertigo. Katherine Dunn made me feel wonderfully woozy, a feeling I’ve so far only had when I’ve read John Irving and Chaim Potak.
- Year of Wonders: left me breathless
- Nightingale: filled my lungs again.
- The Ocean at the End of the Lane: not a children’s tale, although a tale of childhood. Magical, lyrical, beautiful. I hated finishing it. I am fully on the Neil Gaiman fan-wagon.
- Have you (re)read America (The Book): A Citizen’s Guide to Democracy Inaction by Jon Stewart, et al. You should.
There were other books, some better than others, all worthwhile. I long ago decided life is too short to finish reading a book for pleasure that isn’t. I fortunately had no books this year that I started and quit, although I am admittedly struggling to finish Damon Knight’s classic Creating Short Fiction.
I have more than 200 books on my to-read list. I cannot wait
Not books, but noteworthy:
- The New Yorker: There is nothing else that murmurs “Lazy Sunday morning with perfectly balanced coffee” as this magazine does.
- Writer’s Digest: pleasant and more often useful than not.
- It takes a spectacular show for me not to fall asleep in front of the television. Jon Stewart kept me awake, informed, and impassioned. I mourn heavily the loss of him on my watch list. I do love the man and his team. He may be the reason we finally break down and get HBO.
- Speaking of HBO, my husband and I are finally watching Season Five of Game of Thrones. We have to wait until it comes out on Amazon prime. It’s a rich show, but not too rich to binge upon. As the kids are enjoying two (!) nights at Grandma and Grandpa’s, we should be done with the whole season by the New Year. Then the wait begins anew.
- I enjoy Shark Tank for the sheer Americanness of it all. The tackiness. The hopeful. The stories. The earnestness. The money. The math. The occasional “But I worked so hard!” The ingenuity.
- I watch Walking Dead between my fingers.
- I Doctor Who and I Star Trek and I Firefly whenever I see it on.
- Archer makes me laugh without fail.
My movie list has films dating back over a decade.
I think I went to two movies in a theater this year, both children’s movies. Neither worth mentioning.
- My family loved watching Inside Out and all the Harry Potter movies.
- I loved: Unbroken, Departures, American Splendor, Imitation Game, Interstellar, The Theory of Everything, The Wolf of Wall Street, Bernie
- I enjoyed: Wild, Guardians of the Galaxy, Cake, American Sniper, Edge of Tomorrow, Lucy, The Hundred-Foot Journey
Ultimately though, I enjoyed the act of once again being a pleasure-seeking world eater.