Over the course of the last month, since my summer semester at University of Oklahoma came to an end, I have spent nearly every day reading. FOR FUN. No biology textbooks or humanities essays. No critiques on art or poetry. Just new literature and mindless, fun crap. I even bought myself a seek-a-word puzzle book to have around when I need a quick word fix. It reminds me of when I lived with my grandmother decades ago. She and I were both horrible sleepers so we would often be wide awake at 3 o’clock in the morning. Neither of us cared much for conversation so late in the evening (or early in the morning?), but the companionship of words and each other seemed enough to pass the time until the sun came up.
My trips these days to the library are planned with methodical precision. I have a Goodreads list (as seen in the sidebar) of books I want to read and I usually spend an hour or so each Saturday searching the library catalog. I make notes on what books can be found at which location, and write call numbers and order of preference next to each one. If there is anything I like to do as a loner-personality type, it’s figure my own way around. The Target grocery store and the library are all I’ve really mastered so far since Oklahoma City’s highways and grid system still boggle my mind. Remember, I come from a city in which three streets can share one name and I apparently got used to that stupid system. (But I’ve worked at a library before, a public library/university learning center hybrid. The two cataloging systems used by each one are so vastly different from one another but they make sense in their own ways. Learn the basics of them both, I IMPLORE YOU.)
Basically, my library book-borrowing list is planned more thoughtfully than my grocery list. Everyone in this house is well-fed, even the dogs; nobody suffers from scurvy. Why fix what’s not broken?
I tend to come home with about half a dozen books at a time, books ranging from novels to memoirs to cooking and gardening how-tos. My husband, who tends to be so deeply involved in a single book at a time, is in awe of this. To be clear, I never intend to read all of the books I bring home, but I approach library-shopping the same way I approach preparing for a road trip. While I never intend to wear all the clothes I pack in my suitcase, they’re all there in case I decide to do just that. No, I don’t think that makes any sense, either, but it calms my anxious ways to have what I might possibly want at hand. Also, sometimes a book disappoints and you just have to abandon it and open another, right then and there. Just like if I wanted to change my outfit mid-day while on vacation…now it makes sense, right?
My book recommendations:
The Kings and Queens of Roam by Daniel Wallace – I’m not a big fan of fiction, or at least I wasn’t until I read this book. My interests usually lead me toward biographies, historical events, and travel memoirs. I think all those years I spent living in the world of facts squashed my confidence in knowing how to choose a good make-believe novel. This one gave me my fiction-choosing swagger back.
Vampires in the Lemon Grove: Stories by Karen Russell – To be honest, I slogged through the first few stories with the same feeling of disappointment as when I slogged through Swamplandia! (which I never finished). The only short story worth reading is Reeling for the Empire and it made all that other work worth it just to read this tale. I promptly closed the book afterwards, not wanting to be further disappointed by Russell’s writing style. The word “disappointed” could easily be replaced with “exhausted”. Reeling was just a well-earned reward for having to wade through the crap of every other paragraph before it.
The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker – This story was magical, it was fantastic! I mean, the slowing of the earth? The lengthening of the days and nights? Circadian rhythms a jumbled mess. I actually spent a few days not reading anything because I was in a period of recovery. When I closed the book, though, I had so many more questions: Did the wars stop? Did cancer rates fall? Did Alaskans suffer the way Texans did? And what about the equatorial islands? Decades of fictional information are missing and I find myself caring about those unknowns as though the slowing of the earth could really happen.
Wild by Cheryl Strayed – It’s a horrible feeling to acknowledge that someone’s grief, someone’s gut-wrenching heartbreak, is my constant companion these days. That grief came with me to the salon when my daughter got her hair cut today. I had breakfast with it and fell asleep with it, that grief. I can’t get enough of it. What’s even worse is that I don’t want it to end. When Strayed’s grief ends, the book ends and I haven’t finished this book – I am only about 80% through it all. When deciding if I’m going to give a book my time, I usually only read the first three to five pages. If I’m not into it by then, I won’t get into it at all. Strayed had me hooked from the first page. I can’t remember the last time that happened. Strayed, because of or in spite of all her self-admitted character flaws, is a phenomenal writer.