My love of reading has been a defining characteristic of my life (and, consequently, my home decor) since I was a little girl. I have always been transfixed by the power of a good story. I always want to own the books that I read and love, because just glancing at the spine of a book on a shelf can remind me of the world contained within its pages.

I go through certain times in my life, however, that reading becomes even more to me than a hobby or a mental escape. I find myself reading books urgently, gulping in the words on a page as if they are air and I am coming up out of deep water. Non-readers will probably think that I’m nuts, but it’s as if I am reading because my soul is hungry. The last time this happened to me was my last semester of college. I was overwhelmed with the crossroads that were approaching in my life, and I plunged myself into literature. That semester, I read Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, Les Miserables, White Oleander, and poetry by Byron, Keats, Shelley, Burns, and Donne.

I am feeling myself moving into this stage again. I went to a Friends of the Library book sale (book accumulators like myself know that these yearly events are Mecca for book bargains) last week, and since I arrived back at home with my bag of treasures, I have finished two books and begun a third. I take my books with me to work, I listen to them on tape when I drive, and I plop down on the couch with them as soon as I come home from school. I’m indulging in book gluttony.

I am reading through my stack of library sale finds, which means that my reading list is much less classic and more random than that of my previous book binge. Here is my list so far:
The Sun Also Rises (on tape)- meandering story about bitter Americans in Europe after WWI
Memoirs of a Geisha (on tape)- very interesting story of a little Japanese girl who is basically sold into slavery, where she is trained for the life of a geisha
The Kitchen Boy- a fictional account of the last days of Tsar Nicholas and his family as they were kept under house arrest by the Bolsheviks, told from the perspective of the young boy who worked in the kitchen. Very interesting twist at the end.
High Tide in Tuscon– nonfiction essays (which are not typically my style) by Barbara Kingsolver. We disagree on almost every important issue, but I love her prose style and find her opinions to be thought-provoking.
Desire of the Everlasting Hills– a discussion of the historical impact of the life of Jesus from basically a secular viewpoint. The author brings a very different perspective to Biblical stories than you get from Sunday School. As with Kingsolver, I don’t always agree…but it’s thoughful reading.

In the queue:
Atonement by Ian McEwan
Dispaches from the Front by Anderson Cooper
-The Stranger by Albert Camus
-The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown
The Virgin Blue by Tracy Chevalier
-A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle

“Literature duplicates the experience of living in a way that nothing else can, drawing you so fully into another life that you temporarily forget you have one of your own. That is why you read it, and might even sit up in bed till early dawn, throwing your whole tomorrow out of whack, simply to find out what happens to some people who, you know perfectly well, are made up.” -Barbara Kingsolver


11 responses to “Gluttony

  1. wow. I understand, I’m not as bad as you because I can’t afford to be, but I understand.

  2. Great post,booklover! You’re in for a treat with the queue. I’ve read some of them, too.

    When I was a little girl (in the Dark Ages before color TV), my favorite activity was the twice a month visit to the public library branch closest to our home. Of course, it was actually in another suburb and entailed a trip of probably 10-15 miles. One way. So, twice a month my mother would pack me and my sack of books into the car, and we’d head off for an afternoon at the library. Inside was cool, dim, and bookish. I’d run my hands over the spines of the books, gazing at titles until I found one I couldn’t resist. I’d check out the limit each time, devouring the first one in the car on the way home. As I got older, and the books I chose got longer, I checked out fewer, yet still would lose my sense of time and place as I entered the lives of the characters. Ah, such bliss! I credit my mother with my love of reading which led to an English major in college which led to teaching English in public school. Alas, I no longer teach “literature” as I once did, so my reading is now purely for my own pleasure.

    Being a life-long reader, I passed that love to my children whose bedroom libraries rivaled the one in my living room. They were collectors of books from early days. I read aloud to them until they were probably 10 or so. I hope they pass the love of the written word and the worlds therein to their own children.

  3. Last summer, I didn’t have a job, and I read quite a bit. I read some classics I had missed in high school, and I read some new fiction books. Some were good; others not.

    Right now I’m reading The Mind of the Maker, which I’ve mentioned on other blogs, and I would highly recommend it for creative people. By Dorothy Sayers, it compares God as Creator to Man as Creator.

    With a job, and a constant project (or two) in my house, I don’t have as much time to read. But, I probably love to make things more than read. So, my extra time is swollowed up in projects more than reading time, though I do enjoy good books.

  4. Cliff is just jealous because I actually read the books I pay money for.

  5. @Lyd: I just finished Life of Pi. Interesting book. I know it’s fiction, but at the end I found myself wondering which story was true; the one with animals or the one without.

    @whomever recommended Uncle Tom’s Cabin (I forget who it was): Read that, too, and it was enlightening.

    @Lindsey: I’m open for recommendations.

  6. Well, as you know, I am not really a reader. It’s not that I don’t enjoy reading, and I think I’d like to be a reader (especially since good readers make good writers, and I aspire to be a better writer). But maybe I’m like Lydia. There is too much else to do.

    Maybe I could borrow some good ones from you Linds, like Blue Like Jazz that you recommended.

    Carolyn, MAB wrote about Uncle Tom. She’s one of those reader/English major types, too.

  7. Not to be confused with “Fat Tom”

  8. The “problem” with Karen and Lydia is that they are whole-brained (good at everything) so the artistic, fun stuff usually wins out over the more pedantic. I wish I was as imaginative as they are.

    @mab: Thanks for the Uncle Tom’s Cabin recommendation.

    I think I’ll try Dorothy Sayers. Or maybe a volume on retirement RVing! ha!

  9. You should’ve added in this post the fact that your baby names are based on literature, too. I think I will go ahead and post about the baby bug. It’s turning into a pretty long list, I had no idea I was that bad!

  10. This is a little belated now, but here’s a post I saw and thought of you. It was written by my sister-in-law’s sister-in-law, so I think she’s family….haven’t quite figured that one out yet.

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