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September 18, 2005

Reading About Reading

There have been two constants in my 40 years of life: the love of my family and my love of books. I can’t recall a time in my life when I didn’t have at least one book started and others stacked somewhere, waiting for me.

Even as a tiny girl, I was enamored with books. I had my own library card at age five and would trek the few blocks uptown on the days when the monthly bookmobile would arrive from the neighboring town. The library and bus driver both knew my name and as the years would go on, they would set books aside that they knew I would enjoy.

I considered a career as a librarian until my school librarian informed me, “Just because you get to handle all the books, doesn’t mean you get to read them.” Well, that burst my bubble and helped to realign my career choices.

I know that there are others out there as passionate about books as me, but I’d never come across someone who wrote so concisely about Book Love until this summer. Somehow I stumbled upon a recommendation for Anna Quindlen’s How Reading Changed My Life. Catchy title, I thought, and put it on my reserve list.

It arrived in time for our vacation, and although it is a slim volume of only 84 pages, including book lists at the end, it perfectly captured the way I feel about books. Reading through, I found myself placing post it notes in the margin and itching to make my own comments. I think I will have to purchase a copy for myself so I can return again and again to the bits that resonated within me.

Here are some of them…

“There was certainly no talk of comfort and joy, of the lively subculture of those who forever fall asleep with a book open on our bedside tables, whether bought or borrowed. Of those of who comprise the real clan of the book, who read not to judge the reading of others but to take the measure of ourselves. Of those of us who read because we love it more than anything, who feel about bookstores the way some people feel about jewelers.”

“As Alberto Manguel writes in his wonderful A History of Reading, ‘I could perhaps live without writing. I don’t think I could live without reading.’”

“Perhaps it is true that at base we readers are dissatisfied people, yeaning to be elsewhere, to live vicariously through words in a way we cannot live directly through life. Perhaps we are the world’s great nomads, if only in our minds…Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home. “

If you experience Book Love in all its forms, I encourage you to get a copy of How Reading Changed My Life. You will feel like you have come home.

Rediscovering a Long, Lost Love

With Graham taking the bus to school each day, my trips to and from St. Paul are again solo flights. For the first time in five years, I can listen to books on tape, something I used to do voraciously pre-baby. I figure if I can’t actually sit and read a book in my leisure time, I can at least drive and listen to one.

Hitting the Limit

I discovered something interesting the other day at the library – there is actually a limit of books you can check out. Graham and I were at the self-checkout counter, swiping barcodes across the reader when the screen flashed, “Limit Reached.”

Huh? Who knew?

Between Graham’s books and movies and my books, music CDs and books on tape, we had a grand total of 100 books checked out; with more we wanted but could not take home.

So we took action into our own hands and got Graham his very own library card. I admit I got a little lump in my throat to see how gingerly (tenderly?) he carried his card around the library, trying to decide if any books he saw were card-worthy.

And of course, he decided he would only check out those books that he chose, not the ones I thought he would like, so I’m not sure that having his own card will make a difference to our check out limit just yet.

Graham the Reader

Graham has become quite the reader, and we are tremendously proud of him. One of our favorite series right now is “We Both Read.” The books have a unique concept: parents read the left-hand page, and kids read the right-hand page. The children’s text is a condensed version of the parents’ and each highlights specific new vocabulary words.

Graham really likes nonfiction books about nature, so he is enjoying the books “About Bugs,” “About the Rain Forest,” and “About the Sea.” My internal fact-loving geekness rejoices in this, especially when he can make connections between something he has read and something he observes in his daily life.

What I’m Reading

Just finished: “Garlic and Sapphires” by Ruth Reichl. Loved it. If you are foodie, you will enjoy the descriptions of the meals she ate while she was a food critic with the New York Times.

In the middle of: “True Brits: A tour of Great Britain in all it’s bog-snorkeling, shin-kicking and cheese-rolling glory” by J. R. Daeschner. An American author tracks down eccentric British traditions and takes part in the activities. It’s not a great book but it feeds my love for all things British.

Next in the queue: “Confessions of a Slacker Wife” by Muffy Mead-Ferro. Loved her “Confessions of a Slacker Mom” and I can’t renew it any more.

Listening to: “A Year in the Merde” by Stephen Clarke. A funny fictional account of a Brit businessman working in Paris. Added bonus of being able to listen to both British and French accents.

Graham’s current favorite: “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus” by Mo Willems. A hoot!

The First Weeks of School

Graham loves riding the bus each morning and enjoys his days at school. He is learning how to weigh and measure, make comparisons and finger paint with chocolate pudding. The previously-mentioned lump in the throat returned this weekend when I heard him recite the “Pledge of Allegiance.” I imagined him standing in his classroom with his little hand over his heart, intoning “and to the Republic, for Richard Stands…” along with 21 other little kids.

The Mystery Plant

The scabiosa or pincushion plant was pretty easy to identify. Can you guess the plant this week?

Here’s What’s Blooming Now

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Calendula
Sunflowers
Goldenrod
Heart-leaved aster – Minnesota native plant
Jack in the Pulpit – seeds
Four o’clocks
“Sweet Autumn” clematis
“My Favorite” mum – lavender
Rose
Scabiosa
Campanula “Blue Clips”
Comfrey
Ligularia “Othello”
Canna
Morning glories
Nicotiana – all shapes, colors and sizes
Verbena bonariensis
Native monarda
A lobelia that is blue but was labeled “Cardinal Lobelia” when I bought it. Surprise!
Nasturtium “Peach Melba” and others
Rudbeckia “Goldsturm”
Phlox “David”
Asters
Russian sage
Hydrangea “Annabelle”
Coreopsis “Moonbeam”
Joe Pye Weed
Purple coneflower
Butterfly weed
Veronica
Thyme
Alpine strawberry – and fruiting, too
Sedum
Indian blanket
Nepeta “Walker’s Low”
Daylily

Garden Chores for the Week

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Keep up with the wisteria vines, slug traps and pot watering. Deadheading, too. I’ve been avoiding it for too long.

Start gearing up for planting bulbs; hundreds should be arriving in the mail this week from White Flower Farm – tulips, daffodils and more. And I purchased allium from the City of Plymouth.

Vegetable Garden

The tomatoes are continuing to produce madly.

Today’s Grahamisms

“Rock and roll is awesome!” (Who is this child and where did he learn the word “awesome?”)

Posted by maasx003 at September 18, 2005 1:24 PM | Books | Gardens

Comments

Jackie, great post here. As a book lover myself I was struck by two things, 1) I can't believe your school librarian said that to you. For shame! The important thing isn't that you won't be able to read all the books you see in the library, the important thing is in the effort to do so. How exciting that is! I step out of my office everyday and see thousands upon thousands of potential reading material. I love it!

I also really liked the quote you picked out, and I was particularly impressed with this sentiment:

Of those of who comprise the real clan of the book, who read not to judge the reading of others but to take the measure of ourselves.

That is awesome. It is something I also had to come to grips with in my own reading patterns. There is value in every book that is written and an audience for that book. People should not feel ashamed, ever, of what they read, but they should try to figure out why a particular book or genre seems to make them happier, or thoughtful, or even angry. Books can definitely teach us about ourselves. Marvelous quote.

I may have to pick that book up. It sounds short and sweet and very thought provoking. Thanks again for the great post!

Posted by: Shane at September 20, 2005 11:11 AM