I have a lot to say here about books. And I have no fluid way at the moment of stringing everything together. Please indulge my list-making mania.
1. I love the smell of a book, the feeling of cracking a binding, the mental journey one can take. Like a dear friend that one can return to for confirmation of emotion, of knowledge, and of humanity, books stabilize me. They indulge my wishes and distract me from problems and show me more of myself. Books ground me and frighten me and enlighten me and inspire me and evoke in me feelings I cannot explain.
2. Because I love books, I love libraries. I marvel at the public buildings that contain the knowledge of generations and the wisdom of history and the future of our society. They make me very happy. In particular, I have a little bit of a love affair going with the Harold Washington Library in downtown Chicago. The exterior building- meh- it's okay. There are much prettier places in the city, I promise. But the interior wealth of this place is astounding. I spend hours just walking and browsing and sitting and working and thinking and listening and of course... reading.
3. There are three books that I love more than any other three books on the planet. I like to think they represent three phases of my life thus far. The first book is "Madeline." The second book is "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn." And the third book is "The Poisonwood Bible." I cannot stop loving these three books. I have read them over and over and over and feel attached to them as a baby has a security blanket. Can I bring them with me?
4. I don't know when this part of my psychosis began, but I cannot stop reading a book once I have started it. I am bound and completely determined to press on and persevere through even the dullest of texts. It is because of this part of my personality that books like "Moby Dick" were ever finished. (You should know that I am struggling a great deal with this because I cannot find an underline button and book titles are meant to be UNDERLINED.) Anyway, this leads to more stories, of course.
5. I like to travel, and when I travel, I like to read. Okay. I like to read all the time. But when traveling, I am particularly interested in "light" books that I still can call friends. Books with substance and some humor and a wee bit of meaning. No Faulkner for traveling- but we should talk about the other end of the spectrum as well. I don't like trash- reading trash makes me kind of want to regurgitate the information from my brain- especially because (see #3) I had to read the whole thing. A book is trash if it is written in a purposely pithy and stale style without substance. A book is trash if the entire plot line is based around a man and a woman and perhaps another man or another woman and their adventures and misadventures in love. If there are half-naked people on the cover, the book is probably trash. And finally... if the book is about vampires, it is most likely trash. I said it. That's right. AND I'm moving to Romania. Booyah.
6. One such trashy novel is "The Devil Wears Prada." I can hear your brain exploding from here, because the movie was so fantastic, right? Cute and approachable Anne Hathaway turns into a major B**** when pressured by the fabulous and striking Meryl Streep and finally regains her true personality, credibility, and adorable boyfriend in the end. Well, that all happened in the book. Except it was written down, and it was TERRIBLE. Great story, awful writing, and the bane of my existence. Why, friends? Because this is the book I chose to bring to Romania the first time around. It has never in my life taken me ten days to read a novel- and I barely finished this one. I kid you not, I have never in my life wanted to throw away a book more. With great disdain and a churning stomach, I finally read the last page and promptly discarded the book, sometime on our return journey.
7. On my next international trip, I was a little bit more intelligent. My mom and I each packed two books from an author that I knew I liked- nay- loved. Barbara Kingsolver is, in my opinion, God's gift to literature. And so we read her wonderful books and I didn't want to cry or scream even once. Of course, because I loved the books I finished them too quickly and had to buy more- but there are plenty of good little bookstores in Europe.
8. I recently was kept awake all night reading a book that I feared was going to be a repeat of many books I have started and not enjoyed and been forced to finish. I picked it up on a whim, desiring to be current with the times and the approximately 17 people I see daily reading this book. Seriously- I saw SEVENTEEN different people today with this book in their hands. Anyway, "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" didn't immediately catch my attention, but I plodded onward. Two nights ago at around 11 o'clock, I was about a third of the way through the text, and I realized that I had to finish it THAT night. Because, friends, there was no way I could put it down. There would be no sleep with that storyline hanging open. And so I turned all the lights on and read and read and read the sadistic and intriguing and freakin' terrifying murder mystery. And went to bed at 7 o'clock in the morning. This has happened with precisely TWO other books in a lifetime of reading: The last book in the "Harry Potter" series, and "Native Son." I highly recommend all three if you have many hours of sleep to miss out on.
9. All of this to ask: Who has recommendations of books to take with me this year? Books for the flight, for travel while there, for teaching, for boredom?
Thanks for the indulgence. I am sure that someday these posts will again be short and pithy. Today was just NOT the day.