I’ve spent my life reading fiction and poetry — anywhere from an hour, two hours, three, even six hours a day. I’ll bet a lot of us are like that: we’re the back-of-the-cereal-box readers, when we were kids, we walked home from the library while reading a book, we were late into the night readers with a flashlight under the covers (or, like my friend, C, the kid who read in the closet with the door closed after lights out). Some of us were driven to book stealing when we ran out (will my brother really notice I’ve taken his Captain Underpants book?)
And then we became adults and found even more things to read — Jane Austen, Shakespeare, Dickens, you know big fat wonderful books. Not to mention short stories and poetry.
Anyway, that’s what I was like until about four years ago, when I went from reading War & Peace in a week to reading a dozen books a year. It was writing that led to this stunning change in my relationship with words. There’s only so much time in a day, and the little time I had to devote to reading became the time I devote now to writing.
But you know what? Something great happened last week. I finished my novel edits. (And Barack Obama — oh how great is that? I still feel incredibly moved every time I think about him.) And I had time to read. With impeccable timing, Sandi Shelton’s new book, Kissing Games of the World, came out on election day, and arrived in my office, with the help of Amazon, the very next day.
You know, if you know anything about her, (that’s a link to the interview she did for this blog), that it’s a great book, but it’s made even more wonderful by the fact that Sandi has been such a lovely, approachable, encouraging presence — on her blog, on mine, and in my life. She writes me e-mails every once in a while; wonderful, inspiring, funny, interesting ones that give me heart and make me think I can actually accomplish things as a writer myself.
The great thing about Sandi’s book is that it’s both fun and beautifully written. You never feel like you’re being cheated when you’re in her generous hands — the characters are interesting, full of life, troubled, funny. And my goodness, that woman can pull you in. The book’s about a single mom whose life is turned upside down when the older man she lives with, a man who’s raising his grandson, dies and his son returns home to kick her out of the house and take his son home with him.
Now, that’s not the kind of book my husband ever reads (if they were on a boat while this was happening, maybe this would be different), but he picked it up the other night and he loved it. He laughed more than he ever has reading those books about grim sea voyages. And he e-mailed Sandi without even telling me, to tell her he really liked her book. He’s in good company. The book is getting terrific reviews, and rightly so.
So. Go out and buy it. Give it to people for Christmas. We need to support each other’s endeavors! Even more, we need books like this, books that remind us of what it was like to walk home from the library, glancing occasionally at the ground to make sure you aren’t going to trip, but mostly feeling like you are the luckiest person in the world because you’ve found a great, interesting, fun book and it was taking you to a different place, a place you liked being in. That’s how it felt to me, for the first time in a long time, and I’m so grateful to Sandi for her terrific timing and her wonderful book, which have reminded me again just how much pleasure there is in a story well told.