Random Acts of Reading

March 14, 2014

Did you know it’s National Reading Month in the United States? For me, every month is reading month. As I’ve mentioned frequently (possibly far too frequently), reading is one of my favorite simple pleasures. And I’ve been doing a lot of it, as usual. I’m determined to get a handle on the number of unread books I own, so I’ve been reading primarily from my own stacks, and trying, with mixed success, to curtail book purchasing. (So far this year I’ve spent only $3.75 on books—not counting books I’ve obtained through Paperback Swap and by using a credit at my local used bookstore.)

But I digress. The point (and I do have one) is that I’ve been reading from my own stacks while simultaneously trying not to rebuild them. I’ve read 11 books out of my 36-book goal so far. I thought I’d share a few bits and pieces from this year’s reads.

The first book I read this year, What Alice Forgot, was so delightful that I kept it in my library instead of passing it on. Alice Love thinks she’s 29 and pregnant with her first child when she regains consciousness after a fall at the gym. Turns out, she’s actually 39, the mother of three and about to be divorced. What happened during that missing 10 years? This book was fun to read, and also thought provoking: Is your life what you expected it to be 10 years ago?  

Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston, was my first classic of the year. I had never read anything by this writer, and wasn’t sure what to expect. I enjoyed this book very much. Set in Florida, it follows Janie Crawford’s search for real love and her true self, and isn’t that what we’re all looking for? A tiny teaser:

“She was a rut in the road. Plenty of life beneath the surface but it was kept beaten down by the wheels….mostly she lived between her hat and her heels, with her emotional disturbances like shade patterns in the woods—come and gone with the sun.”

Interesting fact: Hurston wrote Their Eyes Were Watching God in only seven weeks!

Take the Cannoli, a book of essays by Sarah Vowell, was an impulse buy at my library’s book store. I’d read one other book by Vowell, who is also a contributor to radio’s “This American Life,” and I love her quirky writing voice. One of my favorite passages from Cannoli:

“Heaven, such as it is, is right here on earth. Behold: my revelation: I stand at the door in the morning, and lo, there is a newspaper, in sight like unto an emerald. And holy, holy is the coffee, which was, and is to come. And hark, I hear the voice of an angel round about the radio, saying, ‘Since my baby left me I found a new place to dwell.’ And lo, after this I beheld a great multitude, which no man could number, of shoes….”

(And speaking of “voice,” I just learned that Vowell was the voice of Violet in one of my favorite animated movies, The Incredibles.)

Hyperbole and a Half, by Allie Brosh, was a library book, I admit, but I couldn’t resist it. Brosh can make me laugh till I cry. The book contains original material, but some of it can be found on her blog. Check out these posts, also found in the book, for a taste of Brosh’s humor: “Dogs Don’t Understand the Basic Concept of Moving” or “The Party”.

What have you been reading? Any new discoveries?

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  1. Dear Kathy - I so love to read as well. I haven't done as well as you this year though - am just on a 3rd novel and 2nd spiritual book and perhaps a few art books in between. The important part is that we are reading. Will have to check out your list. Have a great week-end.

  2. Reading is awesome--I sometimes get carried away with my enthusiasm.

    Hope you have a great weekend, too!

  3. Love this post. I love that you are reading books you already have...I used to buy new books, not having read the exisitng ones...That wasn't being in the moment, is what I thought. I just finished Hyperbole and a Half & the one that made me laugh/cry was about procrastination. That little self portrait is so unique & so vulnernable & expressive. I've written down Take the Cannoli, thank you! Happy Reading to you...

  4. Thanks, Rita. Happy reading to you. Hope you enjoy Take the Cannoli.

  5. I wish I could be so good and read just from my stacks (while not adding to them!!). I won't say how many books I have already bought this year, though in my defense most of them have been with gift cards from the holidays and my birthday. I have been trying hard to read library books but keep getting tripped up by due dates--yet again I am in the middle (well more at the beginning of a book called The Winter People and it is overdue...so will take it back tomorrow and get back in line). I am however really trying to focus on several books where I am well into the stories and nearing the halfway mark or end...and THEN I can think of picking up a new one! At the moment I am thoroughly enjoying rereading the Little House books--just what I need to get my mind off work stress. I have What Alice Forgot and and going to pull it from my own pile in anticipation--so glad to hear good things about it. Hope all is well with you and you are having a wonderful weekend!

  6. I haven't been reading as much lately for some reason. I'm still reading, just not as much. After finishing The Ladies Paradise, I picked up Dr Zhivago, which I'm enjoying but finding to be slow going; not sure why. I like your list. I just noticed that Their Eyes Were Watching God is only $1.99 as a kindle edition; that's less than the postage from PBS, so I think I'll go ahead and order it.

  7. So I guess I'm not so good at "reading from my stacks and not adding to them!"

  8. Danielle--Don't tell anyone, but even though I've only spent $3.75 on books, between purchases, PBS and the book store credit books, I've brought 10 books into my home--only one fewer than I've read! In my defense, two of those books were ones I've already read and just wanted to add to my library. I'll have to cull my shelves again or the books really will take over.

    I hope you enjoy What Alice Forgot--I really loved it. And I hope you enjoy your weekend reading, and continue to make "stately progress"!

    By the way, I'm about two-thirds of the way through Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives. I couldn't resist it anymore, and took a break from reading from my shelves to check it out from my library. I love it--and will be jotting down some new authors to look out for.

  9. Cheryl--That happens to me, too. Sometimes I only have one or two books I'm reading, generally because I'm doing something else that absorbs me. This year, however, I have been making more of an effort to read from my shelves to cut down on the number of unread books that just keeps getting out of hand. I'm trying to watch less TV and read more. I find that when I'm stressed out I tend to watch more TV and I've been a bit more stressed than usual the first couple months of this year. That should change, and I can do more productive things with my time.

    Some books, and I'm guessing Dr. Zhivago is one of them, require and deserve slower and more careful reading, even if they are ones we enjoy. Quality versus quantity is not a bad thing.

    I hope you enjoy Their Eyes Were Watching God. I thought it was very interesting, and different from what I've read before. I would read more of her work. You'll have to let me know what you think.