When I was about Henry’s age, I hung out at the Waldenbooks in University Park Mall a lot. My parents would take me shopping with them and on the way out of JCPenney, they would just kind of deposit me in front of the Anne of Green Gables section of the bookstore while they shopped. This would also happen at our local Kroger. My mom would select groceries while I stood and read near the end of this one aisle that had a revolving rack with mostly Christian young adult novels by Janette Oke. It was a win-win for both of us. I still have my collections by Janette Oke and Lucy Maud Montgomery and Laura Ingalls Wilder and Beverly Cleary. They sit on Millie’s bookshelf now.
I was an eager reader, fostered in part by an unbelievable library in the tiny Ohio town we lived in when I was very young. I can remember attending summer reading programs in the basement there and asking the librarian for help finding titles amongst the castle-like interior. Books were amazing and magical and an escape and I remember devouring them.
I kept on reading for fun as an adult, my commitment ebbing and flowing with college and then work and travel demands. When Bob and I were first married, I was still reading diligently. Then, Henry was born in late 2005 and approximately two days after he arrived, I stopped reading. I think the last book I even attempted was a few chapters of What to Expect the First Year before giving up and placing a higher premium on sleep.
It’s been like this for more than a decade now. I’m still reading things, lots of things – school forms, work emails, report cards, bedtime stories, a magazine here or there, all of the internet – I’m just not reading books. I occasionally think about reading a book but more often than not, I just end up reading the internet instead. I still buy books all the time, but more often than not, they end up stacked on my nightstand, a convenient place to stash my phone when I’m done reading the internet.
Now, you’ve probably done a great job of parenting kids or dogs or working full-time jobs while still being a committed reader. The book club you belong to probably actually reads the books. I think that’s fantastic. I really do. And, if I’m being honest here, I’ve been secretly ashamed for years that my most interesting reading came from those Buzzfeed top 20 lists. I was just never able to make a bigger commitment. My brain space was reserved for the thousands of other details I had to keep track of and that’s how I came to re-read – more than once! – the first twenty pages of A Little Life, just trying to remember which character was the artist and which character still lived with his parents and which one was successful. I never got very far.
But, I’ve missed books. When my dad was visiting in May, he helped Bob and I install a series of bookcases in our living room. All of the books that had been scattered and stacked and stored for years finally had an easily accessible home. I hadn’t realized how much I had missed being engrossed in a really good book until I saw them all lined up like that. Many of them I had purchased and had started but had never finished.
So, this summer, when I dragged the kids to our local library to sign them up for the reading program (and also ruin their lives because I won’t let them play games on the library computer or rent DVDs from the library’s collection), I signed myself up for the reading program, too. I don’t know if I’ll finish the entire program before the August due date but I have made a goal to read three books this summer. I think that’s pretty achievable. So far, I have one down (The Girl on the Train) and two sitting on my nightstand in the queue (The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is SO GOOD. Would you like to talk about it?).
I think I can do this, guys. I really do. As long as I can stay awake long enough to get past the first twenty pages.