On Reading

Kissing Games of the WorldI’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.

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15 thoughts on “On Reading

  1. Congratulations on finishing your edits! And thanks for this lovely post. I was one of those kids glued to my book, trying not to trip on the uneven sidewalk. I’d not heard of Shelton’s novel, so thanks for the heads up. I always come away from your posts with more to read. (And that’s a good thing!)

  2. I was lucky enough to get to read this book in galley form, and actually, in an earlier part of its life, as a draft. It’s such a wonderful book–I am a big fan of Sandi and her books, and this one is just the most wonderful one yet.

    I’ve read it twice since it came out, and have recommended it to everyone I know. It’s sweet-hearted without ever being syrupy (I may be the least sentimental person on the planet), and though it’s a love story, it makes you hold your breath as if it were a cliffhanger. Go! Get it! Read it! Twice!

  3. I tried to post yesterday but the internets weren’t cooperating. I’ve been wanting to read one of Sandi’s books – I really enjoy her blog. Your post made me go directly to Amazon and order Kissing Games of the World. I’ll be eagerly looking for a package for the next few days until it arrives!

  4. BL, Thanks for the book tip and the link to Sandi Shelton’s website (in the interview post). The book’s title makes me curious. I’ll check it out at my LBS; I think I know just the person to gift it to.

  5. Your post brought back memories of my childhood which was full of reading. I thought I was the only one who read the back of cereal boxes! My kids do and so do I if they are on the table – old habits etc. My place to read (hide)was in the kitchen, on the only comfy chair hidden behind the open door. The children’s library ran out of books I hadn’t read and I was so upset that they wouldn’t let me into the grown ups library! I too read less now I am writing more – assignments for my literature degree in my case which seems weird! Thanks for the recommendation it will go on my Xmas list.

  6. It sounds truly wonderful! And Sandi is such an inspiring presence from her blog… Thanks to this nudge, I’m heading out to grab myself a copy of this book.

  7. Nova, And congrats to you for finishing your novel!

    Hello Jan — what a terrific description of your reading history. It is interesting to think that doing a lot of reading for a degree can slow down reading for pleasure, but I think you get overloaded and all the words begin to seem the same. *Until Christmas, anyway, when you have a break!

    Dear Friend Debby — We don’t want to ruin any surprises now, do we?

    Hello Polaris, How nice to see you here! Hope all’s well in Boston and you’re not too snowed under, both weather-wise and work-wise. And yes, a great gift book.

    Cam, you are a woman who doesn’t mess around. That’s how Obama got elected you know — people like you! I’m certain you will enjoy Sandi’s book, by the way. xo

    Hello Nancy and welcome. You are the rarest and most wonderful of friends, the multi-reader. Sandi’s lucky to know someone like you!

    That’s so nice Pete! Thank you. There’s nothing like a book that pulls you in and treats you well while you’re there.

    Hello deborah — I’d have guessed that about you. And I’m happy you have a good, healthy list of things to read.

    Hey Lisa, I hope you have fun with it! By the way, I love reading your status things on facebook. I like knowing how you are.

    Litlove, I don’t think that’s shallow. I mean, books HAVE to have covers, and they might as well be lovely.

    Dear Becca, She does have a terrific voice, doesn’t she?

  8. BL, I’ve added “Kissing Games” to my wish list — and to my give list. Thanks for the rec.

    And oh boy, exciting news about the Stegner application! I know it’s way competitive, but you seem to have spent your life acing way competitive challenges — and as my wise mother always said, if they’re going to give it to someone, why *not* you? All good wishes and confidence,

    xo,
    E.

  9. Wow, I am just overcome by all these wonderful comments. Thank you, Lily, for your kind words–and to all of you who came over and visited me at my blog, and who have left comments and written reviews, and even decided to take a chance on reading the book. Is Lily just the best friend a person can have or what?!

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