Becoming a Reader

Before I start a “Books I Absolutely Love and Don’t Give a Crap if Anyone Else Does” list, I just want to let every one know what kind of reader I am and to give hope to parents that don’t have readers.

 

As a kid, I hated reading.  HAT-ED it!  It was a constant struggle for my mom to motivate my brothers and me.  During the summer, we had to read a half an hour a day along with a couple of workbook pages.  My mom would go to the library with us, pulling books off the shelves, trying to sell us on the back cover summary or the picture on the front.  “This is about princesses.  Faemom, you like princesses.  Brother, you’ll like this one; it’s about bears” And so on. 

 

One of the reasons I hated reading was I didn’t read very fast.  I read slowly and still do compared to my friends and old classmates.  It took me forever to read a book when I was young.  My mom finally admitted that she believed I had some sort of learning disorder as a kid, but she felt she could handle it and help me along.  Which might be why we had a love-hate relationship throughout most of my school years, cumulating to a head during the night before the weekly spelling test.  My mom turned out to be right; she found a way to make me a better reader and student.  Luckily I was blessed with a crazy retention rate, so once I slowly read something; it was pretty much lodged in my brain.

 

My sixth grade year I discovered reading.  I read A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle.  I followed that up with The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatly Snyder.  I was hooked.  Why didn’t anyone tell me that books could be good?  I read Little Women in the branches of an apple tree.  I read The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare about half a dozen times.  I gobbled up Greek mythology, reading both The Iliad and The Odyssey, before high school.  I read scores of Madeleine L’Engle’s books.  I learned about fantasy and science fiction books.   When I learned I didn’t have to rely on the boring school library devoid of any books for preteen girls other than The Babysitter’s Club for book reports, I nearly shouted for glee.

 

I read constantly, abandoning my cousins and brothers to tackle football at my Grandma’s house to read in the living room.  My reading got so bad that in high school my mom actually punished me by taking away my reading privileges for a semester, due to my sliding grades.  One of my best family vacation memories was reading every day in the back of the camper all the way from Arizona to Virginia, but my mom has always believed that I did it out of teenage angst for not wanting to be with the family.  The worst thing about college, aside from the home sickness and stalking, was that I had to put away my books to do all the reading for classes.  But on breaks I would race to the library the very day I got off the plane.

 

I believe reading is for everyone; they just have to find the right book.  My baby brother doesn’t read, but as soon as he told me about a book he was interested in, I dragged him to the nearest book store and bought it for me.  He still says that it’s the only book he’s finished reading since high school.  (So any one has any suggestions for a guy who loves sports but hates biographies?)  My mom is a reader and reads those trashy romance novels.  Did I say trashy?  I meant HISTORICAL romance novels.  Hell, she found my birth name in one.  But she did test out of freshman English when she went back to college, and she knows a surprising amount of period history and customs.  I can’t make fun because I love fantasy books and a good vampire books.  Nothing of real value for a serious English student.  Oh, well.  So when the next post comes up, you can read what I absolutely love, and I’ll try to keep it fewer than fifty.  I know I’m not that interesting.

 

And as for my boys, right now they love reading.  I buy them books all the time, hoping to keep them engaged in books.  I figure we have a fighting chance because both my husband and I love to read.  Here’s hoping.

Ten Books People Love but I don’t

After commenting several times on An Outside Voice and the urging of Penelope, I decided to write my own list.  In Order that Read them

 

  • Romeo and Juliet (William Shakespeare): I am no fan of Shakespears, and I particularly loath this one play.  The writing is ok, and I do have a few monologues memorized.  As one of my friends points out, these plays should be seen, not read.  With that said, I also hate the 60’s version.  But I think the Leonardo DiCaprio and Clara Daines version was much better because you understood what the characters said, the actors understood what they said.  If you have to read Shakespeare, I recommend Richard III or Midsummer Night’s Dream.
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  • Wuthering Heights (Emily Bonte): I can’t stand Catherine and Heathcliff.  They’re jerks.  Stop bothering us, and go to hell.  I highly recommend Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.
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  • Billy Budd by Herman Melville: Good concept; painful reading.  It has a great story line, but Melville is out to impress everyone with his knowledge in seamanship and vocabulary.  In Creative Writing, we call that “Info Dump.”  If you have to read a classic, try Dracula By Bram Stroker or Frankenstein’s Monster by Mary Shelly.
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  • The Scarlet Letter by Nathanel Hawthorne: Yet another great plot.  Yet it gets lost in a blizzard of words.  Someone told me it was originally a short story, and he decided to sell it as a novel, where he was paid per word.  If that’s true, then no wonder it’s so wordy.  I recommend The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper, which my brother really enjoyed.
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  • The Dubliners by James Joyce: We can all give praise to James Joyce for writing the “slice of life” plot, so that we could all focus on the meat of someone’s life and not have to read from birth to grave.  But I just found that James Joyce picked the most boring slice of life.  I hear Ulysses is great, though I haven’t read it myself.
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  • Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert: What’s to love?  Really.  She just uses men and spits them out, not caring for her kids, and then commiting suicide.  A classic borderline personality order, or in other words, a bitch.  Try reading Emma or Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin
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  • The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov: Another play, another bunch of characters who can’t relate too, another matriarch with borderline personality disorder.  If you have to pick this one or Madame Bovary, pick Madame Bovary; it at least has more meat.
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  • Heart of Darkness by James Conrad: It was written originally in Dutch (if I’m wrong, someone please correct me.), and then Conrad translated it himself, which makes it very wordy.  I lost the plot.  The purpose of reading this and Deliverance was for a class on evil in film and literature, I gave the professor my recommendations: The Stand by Stephen King, “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson, and “Those Who Walk Away from Omelas” by Ursula Le Guin.
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  • Deliverance by James Dickey: I just couldn’t connect with the characters.  And that my professor called it a man’s man’s book, during the lecture, didn’t help either.  I thought I knew I was missing something, a penis.  Look at the recommendations above.
  • Wicked by Winnie Holzmann: When I first saw it in the bookstores, I thought that looks stupid.  Then I gave in because everyone was reading it and loving it.  Then I read it, and I want those hours of my life back.  And what was the point of that horrindus tiger scene!  It haunts me everytime I hear the word tiger, and Evan loves tigers.  I recommend anything else.

Just remember what Mark Twain said, “Classics are books everyone talks about but never reads.”

So what are the books you would recommend people to stay away from?

A Mom’s plea From Cat in the Hat

I lay there with Evan

We lay there, we two.

And I said, “What do you want

To read before napping with you?”

 

“Oh Mommy, there is something

I want to read. Something that

You’ll really like, I bet.

Again I want Cat in the Hat!”

 

So that is the only book I

Read!

        Read!

                Read!

                        Read!

And I do not like it.

Not one little bit.

 

We have read this book

So many times that I can not

Count how many times.

That cat ought to be shot.

He’s smiling so nice, in fact,

That you know from the cover

He’s up to no good, bringing

More trouble on the sister and brother.

 

Oh, how I hate that ridiculous

Cat in the hat, oh I bet.

With the Thing One and Thing Two

Which are caught in the net.

And the terrible mess that they make

When their mother is away.

The ending implies it is better to lie

Than take the lecture that may

Come from the mother that day.

 

Oh what I could read!

Oh what I could read instead!

Where Wild Things Are

Or The Magic Bed

Or Finding Nemo

Or It’s a Good Day

Or It Isn’t Easy Being Big

Or Elmo’s Ducky Day

Or Kung Fu Panda or Wall-e

Or Cars, in that case,

Or The Things You Can Think

Or Arthur’s Reading Race!

 

Please, please, not again.

This really isn’t funny or fun.

Just choose another book.
Please, my sweet wonderful son.