Posts Tagged With: authors

Dear Reader: A Letter to Me

April 7, 2014

Dear Me,

Last night after searching Netflix and Amazon Prime for a movie to watch with MSH you left the family room with a rerun of The Twilight Zone playing. Sure, MSH felt slight disappointment that you didn’t want to watch yet another science fiction program, but you’ve never like Twilight Zone, not even any of the remakes.

Former reads.

Former reads.

Remember how you sat down in your comfy chair in the bedroom, put your feet up on the side of the bed and cracked open a new book someone had loaned you? “Mmm…ahh…” Yes, you remember. What a feeling to start reading a new story. You were so excited to begin that you forgot to bring a snack in with you. No sunflower seeds, no ice cream, no popcorn, not even a bit of chocolate. Of course, you were only going to read the first chapter or two and then turn out the lights and call it an early night.

Something happened in that first chapter, or maybe the second, it’s hard to remember now with half a night, and half a morning, of sleep behind you. Looking down at the page numbers, surprised to see that you were in the low hundreds already, you kept reading. Well, you thought to yourself, it’s a YA, young adult book, so it’s a quicker read than most. It doesn’t feel very late. I’ve probably only been reading about an hour. But the clock on the nightstand faced the bed, so you couldn’t see the time and frankly, didn’t care.

You were fully invested in the story, the words, the lives described, the town, the plot, and the nuanced epistolary style of the book. (You remember epistolary? You’re tired today, so I’ll remind you that it’s a book written as a series of letters.) This novel felt more like you had stumbled on someone’s ribbon-tied stack of opened mail to a loved one than a book from a shelf. How could a person put down such a stack of letters mid-pile? Impossible. And so, you kept reading, letter after letter, word after word, and surprise after surprise.

Letters. A thing of the past?

Letters. A thing of the past?

MSH came in to the room after a while. Was it past midnight already? He’s such a night owl, he does his best thinking and programming after you’ve gone to bed. A trait you will never understand in people, as you’re a definite morning person. He laughed at you and said, “are you still reading?” and you laughed back and asked, “you’re not coming to bed already are you?” You wanted to stay where you were and keep reading, not turn down the lights and read like a child sneak-reading under the covers. And you didn’t want to jinx the magic by finding some other comfy spot to cacoon in for the rest of the book. Luckily, MSH found another something to keep himself occupied. You continued to read.

A smattering of books, some read, some waiting for discovery.

A smattering of books.

The thing is, it wasn’t really like reading. It was more like following along while someone thought aloud. Or watching from a distance and hearing everything that went on. You wondered, in the back of your head, how a writer accomplishes that. But mostly, you were so much a part of the story that you couldn’t, wouldn’t, mustn’t stop reading. It would make as much sense as stopping breathing, which is really difficult to do.

The last words of the book crossed your eyes. You hesitated, ran your hand across the page, held it there. What were you hoping for? A sensation transferred through fingertips of the author’s final thoughts? Whispered, unwritten words that the narrator might still wish to pass on to those who are listening with an extra measure of attention? Some feeling of completion, a symphony to accompany credits, a promise of another book?

Something intimate happens between reader and writer, in spite of, or maybe because of the distance paper and ink provides. How else to explain the desire, the drive, to meet the author of certain books? What you want is to meet the characters. Yes, I know what you’re feeling, you want to begin or continue a discussion with those very real characters, find out reasons, background, what happens next, more details about chapter eight, a recipe from chapter fourteen. Whatever little unfinished bits remained, you want more of them.

When you finally closed the back cover, running you hand over those words and illustrations, you let yourself set the book down on the nightstand. And then you simply sat. Remember any of your thoughts? No. Not surprising. You were returning from a journey of weeks, months, years, that had taken a mere four or five hours. You’d traveled through time and space and back past through who knows what science fiction-like means and had returned, intact, whole, and yet changed in subtle and significant ways.

Do you remember pulling the covers up around your ears and snuggling into the pillow? No, you don’t because your mind had wandered back inside the book and carried you dreamlike and floating through that town, the story, to the people. Of course, as dreams do, it all jumbled up with odd real life details. By morning, late morning, since you let yourself sleep in after staying up far too late, you’d lost the sweet vacation essence of the book and found yourself back in reality.

A day of to-do lists and sunlight stood at the door, quietly tapping its foot as you dragged yourself out of bed.

What’s next?

A day or two of no reading. After such sweetness as last night’s book, nothing more will satisfy. In fact completely satiated and full to the brim, you may not need another book for four, or even five days. You might find yourself searching for other books by the same other. That wouldn’t surprise us in the least.

Now, you’ve reveled long enough. Close the door on that book and move on. You have much to do. If you’re productive enough, you might allow yourself a short nap later on.

Welcome back.

Sincerely,

Me

 

Categories: Books | Tags: , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Best Books Ever, At Least for This Week

Someone asked me for a list of my favorite books. Or maybe it was, “If you were stranded on a desert island with only three books…” I don’t know. They demanded a quick answer and I had none.

Happy Children Playing Kids

(Photo credit: epSos.de)

May as well ask a mother to pick a favorite child.

Apparently, I’m just a fraud, masquerading as a literary aficionado.

And yet if someone knew nothing else about me they’d need to know that I. Love. Books.

When we pack up to move, the book boxes outnumber the kitchen boxes. Surely I have a shelf of favorites. Actually, I have categories of favorites. And not just genres. Books are favorite reads because of character development, or amazing descriptive writing, or a compelling storyline. Books are favorites because I recognized myself and my quirks in a particular character, or because the writing felt familiar and comfortable. Favorites find their way into my heart through no reasoning whatsoever. Some are such masterworks of genius I read them just to remind myself that such art and perfection exists.

My yearly goal is to read twenty-five books. (That’s two a month plus one for we math illiterates.) That’s been going on for upwards of thirty years. And some years I read much more than that. Being conservative, that’s 750 books I’ve read as an adult. As a kid and a teen I read like most people breath and I didn’t keep track of them. A book a day during the summer, perhaps? Given that impossible to estimate number, lets round it up to a thousand books I’ve read. Narrowing that down to ten favorites seems impossible.

Just as a sort of point of honor, I read all of these before they became movies, or musicals, or whatever else they’ve morphed into.

Yet, in the spirit of answering last night’s book club question, here is a list of a few of my favorite books, in no particular order. (If they have a star, it’d be in my “deserted island” backpack.)

  • To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee*
  • The Thirteenth Tale – Diane Setterfield
  • Les Miserables – Victor Hugo*
  • The Book Thief  -Markus Zusak* (Surprising narrator)
  • Last of the Mohicans – James Fenimore Cooper*
  • The Time Traveler’s Wife  – Audrey Niffenegger
  • Charlotte’s Web – E. B. White
  • The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon (The best first lines of a novel ever!)
  • Out of Africa – Isak Dinesen*
  • Ender’s Game  – Orson Scott Card
  • Matilda – Roald Dahl*
  • The Whistling Season – Ivan Doig* (Stunning!)
  • The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck (Yup Mr. Beck, your favorite author made the list, aren’t you a proud teacher!)
  • Ella Minnow Pea – Mark Dunn
  • Treasure Island – Robert Louis Stevenson
  • A River Runs Through It – Norman McLean* (Better than a hike in the woods)
  • A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens*
  • Banner in the Sky – James Ramsey Ullman
  • A Prayer for Owen Meany – John Irving
  • Life of Pi – Yann Martel
  • Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
  • Caleb’s Crossing – Geraldine Brooks
  • The Scarlet Letter – Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Talk Before Sleep – Elizabeth Berg (Beautifully heartbreaking)
  • Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis
  • A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
  • Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe – Fannie Flagg (Towanda!)
library shelves

(Photo credit: jvoss)

I feel like I’ve left hundreds of my beloved children behind. I also realize after reviewing my list that it’s all fiction. I do read non-fiction, they just don’t fall into my favorites lists apparently.

Simply reading the synopsis of each book will entertain you, I’m certain of it. Pick one or two that you haven’t ever read then get back to me about what you thought. I’d love a dialogue like that.

I ramped up my reading goal this year to thirty-six books. That seems reasonable. Three great reads a month. Okay, maybe they won’t all be great. But the more I read, I figure, the more likely I’ll find some real gems to cherish. I’ve read eighteen so far, so given that it’s the beginning of July, I’m right on track.

If you have a favorite you think I need to read or you don’t see here, I’d love to know about it. Please leave a comment so I can enjoy  and share the treasures you’ve found among the world of reading.

I’m always looking for another favorite.

Categories: Books | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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