A Latter-day Bluestocking

For the love of reading

Tag: reading

Hello, my name is Marilynn… and I am a Bookaholic.

bookaholicsbannernew2012I have come to the realization that I have a problem.  It’s one I’ve lived with my entire reading life. From the moment I could read those silly Dick and Jane and Spot books I was addicted. The Oxford English Dictionary defines addiction as follows: The state or condition of being dedicated or devoted to a thing, esp. an activity or occupation; adherence or attachment, esp. of an immoderate or compulsive kind. I cannot stop reading. I cannot stop myself from buying or borrowing books.  I cannot stop thinking of books.  I have two shelves full of books that I have not yet read and yet the compulsion to acquire more is constant.  Like an alcoholic at a bar I cannot safely enter a bookstore or library; I do not leave empty-handed.  The urge is a strong one and I always convince myself that it’s just one book and I can stop at any time.  The Urban Dictionary defines a bookaholic as someone who keeps buying books to add to a stack of unread books or someone who has a strong passion for and desire to read all the time, or someone who has a strange fetish for books.  The diagnosis?  I am a bookaholic.

If there is any possibility of gaining a book I will jump at the chance.  I live in Brooklyn and occasionally people put out books they have eradicated from their shelves, deposited in a box with a note saying “Free.  Please Take”.  I cannot pass these up and have gained many books this way.  One time I actually saw the person put the box out on their front step and I practically ran, dragging my young son half a block, to make sure I had first dibs.  In this instance, I hit the jackpot:  about ten almost new hardback copies of Terry Pratchett Discworld books! I stuffed as many as I could in my bag and carried the rest under my arms. Those books are still under my desk at work! [I’ve read some of them but I insist on reading them in order of publication.]

I constantly buy books, borrow books, sniff books (yeah, I know, it’s weird), I like to feel the texture of the paper, I always have a book and a spare in my bag (because you never know). If I do not have reading material I suffer from excruciating withdrawal, call it biblio-DTs. I take a book with me when I am on a date or out with friends, to lunch, to coffee break, to meetings, to a bar, and to the movies. People who know me well know that this is not a reflection upon them. They are my enablers. Anyone who isn’t just doesn’t understand me.

My sister says, “At least it’s a harmless addiction” but is it really? I would rather go without food than not buy yet another edition of Pride and Prejudice!  Earlier today I stepped into a bookstore (I know I shouldn’t have but I had a gift card [see enabled; thanks Eva]) and purchased six new books.  Six!!  The cashier (hi Eric!) told me I always buy interesting books so you know I buy A LOT.  And you know what?  I’m not in the least remorseful.  Nope, not at all.  After all, it’s an innate biological need and I don’t really want a cure.

My name is Marilynn and I am a totally un-penitent bookaholic.  It’s nice to meet you.

The Public Library: A Sanctuary since ca. 1974

Library_ShelvesI just read Five Times A Library Changed Me by Rachael Berkey about the mental, emotional, and spiritual growth libraries provide her.  I silently chuckled reading about the pride she had in getting her first library card, riding her bicycle to the library and attempting to bring home a shelf-load of books, the competitiveness of school reading challenges, and the complexities of navigating her college library mostly because I have many parallels in my own life.  It was a bit uncanny.  We love, crave even, the company of books and we live with the idea that the library is a home away from home.

I was inspired to write of my most potent memories and reflect on how a library was an important entity in my formative years.  Thanks Rachael for the idea:  imitation is, afterall, the sincerest form of flattery.

First Memory of a Public Librarylibrary-pockets

My first memory of a library is of my mother taking me on a very wet and dreary day, it was after a swim lesson, my belly full of pizza and myself physically exhausted [and probably cranky].  The building was diminutive, the exact size to inspire interest without being overwhelming to a 5 year old. It was divided into two wings, one side held the Juvenile books and the other the Adult books and in the middle overseeing all was the Librarian’s desk with all her pretty cards and stamps.  What a haven of serenity.  I received my first library card here.  What source of power, this simple manila heavy card stock, possessed.  I was left to roam the shelves and pick the books I wanted to check out.  I remember the smell of the books, a scent recollection so stimulating that the remembrance of it brings back floods of happy thoughts.

There were so many books!!  How was I to choose?  I couldn’t and boy, was my mother shocked by the small tower of books I had decided upon.  She didn’t flinch however as she guided me to the Librarian to have them checked out.  Thanks Mom for understanding the stirrings of what would become my lifelong affair with the written word and even encouraging it.

I Can and Will Read More Than Youreading medals

Yes, that sounds obnoxious but blame the philosophy of a late 70s and early 80s educational system.  It has established in me that reading for mere enjoyment and interest alone is not enough; that it can, and is, a competitive sport.  That practice, begun in grammar school, continues with Goodreads and their annual reading challenge.  I am currently at 29% of my 2013 reading goal having finished 26 books of the 90 I intend to read.  Cool right?

I remember my first official reading challenge.  The local library called it The Reading Olympics and depending on how many books you read you could earn a bronze, silver, or gold medal.  It won’t take too much stretch of the imagination to know what medal I not so secretly coveted.  I remember taking home the log sheet in which we were to write the books we had completed with the start and end dates.  The mostly self-inflicted pressure was intense but like any well-trained athlete I was sure that I had what it takes to win gold.  I paced myself, slow and steady will win the race, gradually picking up the pace until I had filled out that sheet.  I was so proud when I handed in my sheet knowing I had won gold exceeding the 25 book minimum.  A few weeks later I received that medal and reveled in all its shiny plastic dazzle.  [cue Olympics Theme music now]

Mom’s Library at Collegepaper-chase-lecture

When I was about 7 or 8 years old my mother began her collegiate academic career.  This was awesome for many reasons but mainly because on days when we had to accompany her Mom would leave us at the campus library with the strict orders that we were to behave.  We always did.  Nothing was cooler and it was from this moment that I knew I wanted to go to college too.  When you are in 5th grade and a veracious reader there is nothing like it.  I roamed the stacks for hours never getting bored pretending that I was a college student like those in the television show The Paper Chase.

I once had to do research for a class project.  We were studying medieval Europe and I decided I wanted to do my presentation on heraldry.  I looked up books in the card catalogue, pulled the necessary books from the shelf, and spent every dime I had photocopying a small forest worth of pertinent literature.  Mom even checked out books for me.  I don’t remember what grade I received but I sure do remember having lots of fun doing the research.

Libraries are wonderful places, temples of wisdom and bastions of human intellect.  I love to go to my local library and look at the books and I always inadvertently walk out with an armful of books to add the myriad others I have not read.  Oh well, it only helps me with my Reading Challenge goal!

It’s National Libraries Week (April 14-20) so get out there, get your library card, and start reading!!

Beach Reading 2012

When the temperature begins to rise the last book I want to read is a serious tome.  With the onset of the care-free days of summer my brain does not want to be taxed.   I want a good story, something I can bring to the beach and enjoy with the ocean breezes and nap if I am so inclined.  In other words, I don’t want a committment, I want a summer romance.  For example the ubiquitous Fifty Shades of Grey is included on this summer’s list.  This doesn’t mean I will only read poorly written crap.   In fact, I have some classics on my list but what all these books have in common is a good story where I do not need to analyze plotlines, hidden agendas, characterization, etc.  Some may be well-written and book club worthy others are included just for the pure joy of reading a story even if poorly written.  So here’s the Beach List for 2012:

1.Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson  (so much fun, pure joy)

2.Miss Timmin’s School for Girls by Nayan Currimbhoy (could not put it down, a good mystery)

3. Summer by Edith Wharton  (the title says it all)

4. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway (again, seems summer-appropriate)

5. Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James (mostly to see what all the hoopla is about)

6. The Portrait of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (a good story and wonderfully written)

7. A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin (because I need to finish the 4th book before I can borrow mys sister’s 5th book)

8. A Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After by Elizabeth Kantor (because you can always use a little Jane Austen)

Quote of the Day: Nora Ephron

“Reading is everything.  Reading makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something, learned something, become a better person.  Reading makes me smarter.  Reading gives me something to talk about later on.  Reading is the unbelievably healthy way my attention deficit disorder medicates itself.  Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape; it’s a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it’s a way of making contact with someone else’s imagination after a day that’s all too real.  Reading is grist.  Reading is bliss.”  Nora Ephron, 1942–2012

Regency reading

Quote of the Day: Jacqueline Kennedy

Picture of Jacqueline Kennedy from the White House

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“There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all.” Jacqueline Kennedy, 1929-1994

Jackie Kennedy Onassis

Quote of the Day: Groucho Marx

“I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.”  Groucho Marx, 1890-1977

The Best of Read Alouds

Br'er Fox and Br'er Bear from Uncle Remus, His...

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The days are getting shorter and there is a hint of crispness in the air.  Soon, too soon, the languid days of summer will be over and autumn will be here.  Naturally, my mind has begun to turn towards preparing my son for his inevitable return to school.  Its been a flurry of clothes and supplies shopping, arranging for after-school, and the return to routine.  Once again, I will begin to mandate a time for reading, both alone and together.  Ever since he was a baby he’s been read to and although my son will be entering the 5th grade this year we will choose and put aside books especially to be read aloud.

Presumably one would think he’s too old to be read to, that it’s too babyish.  I disagree.  An article at the website Education World (Reading Aloud: Are Students Ever Too Old?) corroborates my belief.  Not only does reading aloud to your child promote reading literacy but it’s also great bonding time.  Some of my greatest childhood memories were of my father reading to my sister and I.  My Dad was a master of reading with character voices, he had the wonderful talent of becoming a persona; I remember with great fondness his reading, in the vernacular, the adventures of Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox and his interpretation of Kipling’s Rikki-Tikki-Tavi made real for me the epic life and death battle of the stalwart little mongoose with the evil snake Nagaina.  The latter so fondly remembered that a few years ago while reading aloud with family I coerced my Dad to read, once again, one of my favorite stories.  And for a moment, at the age of 40, I was able to relive a wonderful childhood memory.  I don’t think he truly understood what a wonderful gift he gave me that summer evening.  (Dad:  If you’re reading this now, Thanks).

I too, want to give this gift to my son.  I try very hard to do voices; my pirate voice is pretty good (but I recommend having a glass of water on hand) and some of my very favorite characters to read have been those of Roald Dahl.   It feels so good to become the deliciously bratty Veruca Salt from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and the sinister Grand High Witch from The Witches.  I suppose I must be doing something right because my tween still looks forward to laying in bed listening to Mom’s interpretation of stories, bad accents and all.  At least, I haven’t yet had any complaints!

A Brief List of past, present and future read-alouds

  • Rudyard Kipling, Rikki-Tikki-Tavi
  • Roald Dahl, The Witches
  • Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
  • Roald Dahl, The BFG
  • Roald Dahl, Fantastic Mr. Fox
  • Edward Eager, Half Magic
  • E.B. White, Stuart Little
  • Katherine Paterson, Bridge to Terabithia
  • Walter D. Edmonds, The Matchlock Gun
  • Grace Lin, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
  • C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
  • Elizabeth George Speare, The Witch of Blackbird Pond

Quote of the Day: W. Somerset Maugham

Portrait of William Somerset Maugham

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“To acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all the miseries of life.”  W. Somerset Maugham, 1874–1965

Quote of the Day: Confucius

Confucius as administrator

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“No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.”  Confucius, 551 BC–479 BC

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