Monday, March 29, 2010

Don't Judge Me by My Cover


I don't love reading.

Until recently, I didn't even like reading.

I haven't read a ton of books in my life.

I don't like this about myself.

I used to love to read. As a child, I was an avid reader who looked forward to the Scholastic newsletters and school read-a-thons. I'm pretty sure I ate more personal pan pizzas than anyone else thanks to Book It. In junior high, I couldn't keep my nose out of Babysitter's Club, Sweet Valley Twins and Sweet Valley High books. Then came my obsession with horror fiction novels. Enter R.L. Stein's Fear Street series and all things Christopher Pike.

Something happened near the end of junior high. I stopped reading. I'm not sure if I read everything my favorite series had to offer or if I simply grew out of the genre, but one day I just wasn't reading anymore. In 7th grade I read the UNABRIDGED edition of "Les Miserable." That was a mistake. 1200 pages burned me out. When I handed in my book report Mrs. Porter (shout out to my favorite junior high teacher) said, "Wow, you read all 600 pages!" Um, no I read 1200. There's an abridged version??!!

From then on, I was Cliffs Notes Queen. I just couldn't get into books. In high school I tried, but I always got distracted with seemingly better things to do. Before I knew it, it was the day before the book report or test and I was scanning Cliffs Notes to catch up. You should see the library of Cliffs Notes sitting on the shelf in my parents' basement. It's impressive. Er, not so impressive.

In college I really had better things to do. I was swamped having a social life 90 hours a week. No time for reading. More Cliffs Notes. Although Cliffs Notes weren't nearly as abused because I wasn't assigned too many books to read at BYU. It was more textbooks. Too bad they don't make Cliffs Notes for American Heritage.

There are a handful of books I honestly read cover to cover in high school and college. Some for class, some for recreation and some I really enjoyed: "Grapes of Wrath," "Wuthering Heights," "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood," "Bridget Jones' Diary," "The Da Vinci Code." I got into these books and told myself I should try more books. But the practice never stuck.

It may have something to do with my personality. I love to multi-task. My happiness level has a direct connection to my productivity level. I never felt very productive reading. I can't do anything else with a book in my hands. Every time I would sit down to read I would think of all the other things I could be doing and the book would be set aside.

I have a problem sitting still and calming down. I'm usually 75% through a massage before I really let go and enjoy it. I'm getting much better at this, but for a long time, I struggled. So relaxing into a good book was hard for me.

I'm a slow reader, which obviously doesn't help.

Then enter my profession: broadcast journalism. I made a living reading A LOT of text. Newspapers, magazines, wire copy, press releases. The last thing I wanted to do in my off time was more reading.

Times have changed. I don't work in the news anymore. I'm learning to relax (I'm even taking a real VACATION next month!!). I'm becoming a reader again. And the best part is, I really enjoy it.

The change came unexpectedly. About a year and a half ago I was in a major funk. Anderson was six months old and I had the mom thing pretty well figured out. We'd been in our new apartment about two months and I was finished unpacking and settling. I felt this void, this boredom. I kept asking myself, now what? After some confusion and much analyzation I defined the root of my problem: I was lonely. So lonely. I needed friends or at least hobby. Preferably both.

I took action. I planned a BFF World Tour. I signed up for a photography class. I beefed up my blog. I weaseled my way into a group of girlfriends. And I joined a book club.

The book club was kind of a surprise. During my funk, I read this post. The last part made me cry. Not because I wanted to be a reader, but because I wanted the intelligent discussion, the adult conversation and most importantly, the friendships that can come with a book club. I wanted it so much it hurt.

I actually prayed to find a book club.

Within a week, our primary president randomly emailed me, inviting me to join her book club. I was thrilled.

Funny how life works. I joined the club not really interested in books themselves, but dying for girlfriends. I didn't find friends in the club. Sure the girls are nice, but they're not girlfriends. We've had some okay discussions, although most meetings leave me wanting more debate, less niceties. More heat, less fluff. But surprise, surprise, I learned I liked to read! Who knew that would come out of a book club? Lately, I've found myself less interested with the books my club is selecting, so I don't know how much longer I'll stick with the group. But I am so grateful I joined! The club did important things for me. It got me reading. It introduced me to books I never would have picked up on my own. Most importantly, it gave me a deadline. I had to commit to and finish a book. That meant I had to prioritize reading. I actually put "read insert-title-here" on my To Do list every day. When I read, I checked it off my list and that made me feel productive and happy.

I am now proud to present the list of books I've read in the last 13 months. I started including pictures (this post was feeling a little text heavy and I know some people ((Hi Mom and Allison)) get blog-ADD if pictures aren't included. Hmmm... maybe this not reading thing is genetic?), but that was a LOT of pictures. Instead I'm including a picture if I really liked the book, which pretty much means 3 or more stars on my unofficial 5 star scale.

"Suite Francaise" by Irene Nemirovsky
1 star

"Wait 'Til Next Year: A Memoir" by Doris Kearns Goodwin
3 stars


"Stolen Lives: 20 Years in a Desert Jail" by Malika Oufkir
*This was my pick. So I hosted and led the discussion.
3 stars


"Who Moved My Cheese?" by Spencer Johnson
2.5 stars

"The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
I read only half of this book. I found it slightly entertaining but mostly formulaic and repetitive, so I quit.
1 star

These selections were all club books. In August, I traveled and decided to read what I wanted to read. When I returned I joined only in club selections that interested me. Otherwise I read my own picks.

Club read: "Galileo's Daughter" by Dava Sobel
I read: "Time Traveler's Wife" by Audrey Niffenegger
4 stars

Club read: "Three Cups of Tea" by Greg Mortenson (I really want to read this book!)
I read: "The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak
4.5 stars


Club read: "Paris to the Moon" by Adam Gopnik
I read: "Love Walked In" by Maria De Los Santos
3.5 stars

Club read: "The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak (Score, I'd already read it!)
I read: "I am a Mother" by Jane Clayson Johnson
2 stars


Club read: "This I Believe" by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman
*My pick. I hosted and led the discussion.
2 stars


Club read: "Mrs. Pollifax Unveiled" by Dorothy Gilman
I read: "Girl in Hyacinth Blue" by Susan Vreeland
2 stars


Club read: "Wives and Daughters" by Elizabeth Gaskell
I read: "Happiest Toddler on the Block" by Dr. Harvey Karp
2.5 stars


Club read: "The Time Machine" by H.G. Wells
I read: "Firefly Lane" by Kristin Hannah
4.5 stars

Next up: "Waiting for Birdy" by Catherine Newman. This book came highly recommended from my dear friend Emily P. (If you're keeping track, she's the original shamrock belly girl and it was her sister who wrote the book club post that made me cry.) Emily says this is the perfect book to read while expecting baby number 2.

I plan to take a stack of books on my vacation next month and pretty much do nothing but sit on the beach and read. I'd love your recommendations!


Logical Libby said...

I love reading. That said; I have finished ONE book since Meg was born.

Read when you enjoy it. Read what you want, when you want. Only read when it is a pleasure, not a chore. And don't read that Time Traveler book -- it sucked.

Crystal said...

I love that you are reading. I have always liked reading- but i think there is something about being a mom and needing to feel smart that makes me love it even more now. I noticed you and I have a lot of the same reads.
You should check out the Hunger Game series next or the Women of Genesis series by Orson Scott Card.

Emily said...

I can't wait to read your book review for Waiting for Birdy! I hope you like it as much as I did, but try to not expect too much, a book can only be so many things. This one is quiet, subtle, but so spot on. I hope it touches you and excites you for baby #2.

lots of love, my would-be-book-club-sista-if-we-lived-in-the-same-town!

Emily said...

P.S. Robin is always making people cry. Wah! :)

Sarah S said...

I'm listening to The Help on audio right now and I LOVE it. The readers are wonderful. It would be a great book to read on vacation too though.

Ming said...

Hooray for reading! You no longer have to tell people, "I don't read." Remember when you said that to me long ago? So funny. I'm loving discussing books with you and that you've discovered this fabulous hobby. Also, funniest part of this post to actually put READ on your TO DO list :) Something tells me that goes against the idea that reading is a relaxing hobby, but hey man if it works for you and makes it so you can feel good about reading, then more power to you. Love you and your to do lists.

Wein said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wein said...

i feel the same way...once a longer...would like to become one when socializing and school does not consume me. hmmm...ever heard of Leadership and Self-Deception?

Brittany said...

Oh Wendy I love your blog... everything is so well put! I too wish they had cliff notes for American Heritage... my 1 and only C at BYU! Curse that class!
Have so much fun on your vacation relaxing and reading on the beach.
BTW Hunger Games and Catching Fire were both fabulous.
Also The Guernsey literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.
Um I like all of the Dan BRown books too. Davinci Code, Angels and Demons, and he has a new one out, just picked it u at Costco. The Lost Symbol. Just a few. :)

Sally said...

Ooooohh I hope you will love "Waiting for Birdy". It is really, truly a great book when you are reading it at the right time.

What a great post, and how wonderful to find a fulfilling new (old) hobby! You should check out Goodreads if you haven't yet--you will find great recommendations from your friends who are readers!

Rachel said...

I'm sad you didn't love Sherlock Holmes--I am in love with those. Wonder which one you read...

anyway, if you haven't read Harry Potter you must stop whatever it is you are doing and start that now! It is not overrated. My family resisted and resisted and now we are in love. What I would give to read it again for the first time!

Laura said...

I also read "Waiting for Birdy" when gently nudged to do so by Emily. And by gently nudged I mean hit over the head with at least five suggestions/demands.

I really liked it. It was worth being hit in the head.

(Love you, Emily.)

Mom said...

Right now I'm really into 'The Old Testament made Easier' by David J. Ridges.

Codi said...

I do love to read, but nothing gets done when I do, so Scott has converted me to listening to books on my ipod. I love it, makes cleaning much more enjoyable. Still I do love when I can actually find the time to turn a real page!

Kaija said...

Congratulations, Wendy! (And what a wonderful story about having your prayer answered). This is an impressive list of books. I LOVE that you picked "this I believe". I LOVE that show and really miss it. Though I don't know if I'd love reading the essays as much as I love hearing them in the voice of their authors. I wish you could come join our book club! I, too, loved the Book Thief. We are reading To Kill A Mockingbird this month, and going to the staged version at Kirk's theatre and watching the movie! I know what you mean about wanting more heat and debate. We can get into it sometimes. We are a really ecclectic wonderful group of women. I have plenty of academic stuff to read these days but I sure like the break of a good novel. Love to you, reader!

anna banana said...

Love this post and I am so glad you joined the world of reading. I often feel the same way as you in regards to productivity. I think putting the reading on your to do list is a great idea. I love to read while I eat my lunch, I can get about a chapter in, and it is perfect multitasking. :)

So we have never discussed it, but our junior high tastes were identical. Sometimes when I think about all the Stein and Christopher Pike books I read I think I must be crazy, but I loved them. (and babysitters club, sweet valley too!) Fun! Love finding out random things in common with old friends that you have never discussed. :)

Kricket said...

Isn't it great to discover something you like to do again. I'm with Logical Libby, "Read when you enjoy it, Read what you want and when you want."

Ryan and Cheryl Harris said...

I think they're actually called "Cliff's notes" not "Cliff notes". Also, non of your books got 5 stars. Holding out for something better huh? I guess I'll go with the 4.5 recommendations for my Cancun trip. Thanks for the advice!

Rob said...

Good gravy Sister Weiler! Go back to watching/producing TV. You're making the rest of us look bad.
Congratulations. My friends are into the Hunger Games if you need another one for the list.

Stephanie said...

I love reading your blog. It sure does make me miss you and your fun family. Sure wish I could have been there to bring you dinner and take Anderson when you were so sick!
I have had some luck with books lately.
LOVED:The Hunger Games and the second one, The Glass Castle, The Help (listened to it and the women's voices are terrific, they will be your friends the whole time you listen to them. I can send you the file if you want it... The Guernsey Literary Potato Peel Pie Society is Anne of Green Gables meets Pride and Prejudice, my personal favorite.
Liked: Artemis Fowl, Half Broke Horses, Love Medicine, The Mormon Singles Regional Halloween Dance. ( would LOVE to have a book group discussion on that one)
So I had a lot of time on my hands at the hospital when my sister was sick. NO kids for a month and now you see how I spent my time. reading and gaining 7 lbs. Sigh...