When Reading is a Chore

I love to read. It’s one of my favorite activities.

I especially love curling up to read with the boys. It’s always fun to snuggle with the Bear and read his favorite picture books (unless he chooses a Thomas book. I’m OVER Thomas the Tank Engine).

It’s particularly fun to read with the Bug, though, because we’re reading chapter books together. We’ve read a good number, including all of the Chronicles of Narnia, some Dick King-Smith (Babe, anyone? I LOVE that book!) and a few Roald Dahl books.

It’s such a pleasure to read with him and discover stories together, or see him enjoy the books that I loved as a child.

But sometimes, reading is a chore.

With some books, I find myself doing anything EXCEPT picking them up and reading them. This invariably means that it takes me forever to get through these books.

Usually, it’s a sure-fire sign that I am not enjoying a read. And yet, I often struggle to put aside something that I have started.

Reading Guilt

I’m not sure why I have this idea that I have to finish the books I begin. It’s not like I’m reading them for a book group, a class, or for any kind of deadline.

Often, I can feel bad if I’m not enjoying a book that someone has recommended. This is especially true if it’s a recommendation from someone I particularly love or respect.

I need to remind myself that the way I feel about their recommendations does not reflect on how I feel about the person!

Also, if I’ve paid money for a book, I tell myself I really should read it. It’s a waste of money if I don’t, right?

(This is why I’m so glad we have access to such wonderful libraries…)

What Puts Me Off

It can be for any number of reasons.

If a book is boring, then I feel far less guilt about dropping it.

The worst is when I can objectively acknowledge that a book is good, but something is keeping me from thoroughly enjoying it.

It’s usually because I don’t like the protagonist or a main character. I can’t get behind their choices, or they’re just awful people.

Sometimes, it’s the author him or herself (if I’m honest, more often a him). Do you ever feel like, even when reading a work of fiction, you’re actually reading something autobiographical? This happens to me quite often, but I don’t generally mind it.

When it does bother me, is when I can tell that the author is a real jerk. This happened when I read For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway.

I know, I know! It’s a classic! A masterpiece! It’s supposed to be sublime literature! But GOOD GRIEF WHAT A CHAUVINISTIC JERK!

It took me waaaaay too long to finish that book because I cringed almost every time I picked it up.

Call me a Philistine if you will, but when reading Hemingway, I found there was simply too much of… Well, Hemingway, in his writing.

All That To Say…

I’m reading a piece of non-fiction right now, and though I wouldn’t say the author is a jerk like Hemingway, he (and the people he’s surrounded by in his story) are insufferable snobs.

He’s got a great story to tell (I think, I haven’t gotten all that far), but man, I would NOT invite him to a dinner party. I swear, he’d spend the evening lecturing us about the superiority of other cultures and would make literary and historical references, and then scorn us for not recognizing them.

No, thank you.

But I guess I’ll try and finish his book. As long as I don’t have to meet him.

What’s My Superpower?

This afternoon, we caught up on a couple episodes of Julie’s Library.

It’s been a favorite podcast of ours since early in the pandemic, and our Bug especially enjoys the stories picked out by Julie Andrews.

Today, we listened to the episode featuring What’s My Superpower by Inuit author Aviaq Johnston (link to an award-winning short story of hers–warning, it is about suicide).

The Bug is big into superpowers right now (though, being a realist, he has decided he no longer wants to grow up to be a superhero. He instead wants to be an astronaut.)

Before the Story

Before listening, we had discussed what superpowers we would like to have. The Bug said flying, super hearing and transforming into a dinosaur.

I said I’d like to have the superpower of being able to speak every language in the world.

(That’s been one of my three wishes since childhood–the other two being to read every language in the world and write every language in the world.)

Superpowers

While the story was a bit too obviously trying to teach a lesson, it was enjoyable. The author’s tone is playful and humorous, which softens the preachy nature of the narrative.

After listening, we talked about what superpowers we think we actually have.

The Bug wasn’t too engaged in this part of the activity. His idea of superpowers is still very much tied to Marvel and DC comics.

I think I know what his superpower is, though. It’s listening.

Super Listening

He said he wanted super hearing for a superpower, but he’s already got super listening.

The guy is an incredible listener. He’s inherited it both from his father and from my mother (it seems to have skipped me).

He also remembers. It has sometimes surprised me the things he retains and repeats.

For this reason, he’s merciless when it comes to inconsistencies. But he’ll also remember details of anecdotes, confidences and silly jokes.

Though sometimes it doesn’t seem like it, the kid really pays attention when you talk to him.

His great listening, combined with his innate kindness and empathy, make him a very thoughtful, sweet boy.

So What’s Mine?

Since he wasn’t super into the discussion, the Bug walked away without showing the least interest in discussing my superpower.

Sure, he’s a good listener, but he’s also five and sometimes just doesn’t give a crap.

I’ve been thinking about it, though. I think my superpower is communicating.

I’m gifted at being able to clearly communicate any message either face to face, over the phone, and in writing (and sometimes non-verbally with my comically expressive face). It has served me well over the years.

I’ve known about this gift for a long time. Hell, I speak four languages and can communicate effectively in all four of them (even German!).

The Question Is…

…What the heck do I DO with this superpower??

The Joy of a Used Bookstore

It’s been a while.

That is, a while since I walked into a bookstore (or any kind of store other than a grocery store!).

What to Read?

Today, my Bug and I pulled out my trusty edition of The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease to seek some inspiration on what to read next. We haven’t finished our current read yet, but we like to line up our next book.

After browsing around on our public library’s online catalogue and placing a couple of holds for some books that looked interesting, we got to thinking.

And we remembered this wonderful used bookstore we’d visited in Leesburg a long while ago, before the world fell apart.

Checking In

A quick Google search told me that Books and Other Found Things was open, but since I don’t always trust the hours posted on Google, I decided to give them a call.

The owner picked up the phone and when I asked, “Hello! Are you open?” he cheerfully responded: “Yes! I mean, I’m here!”

He informed me that masks were required in the store and that all visitors would be required to wear protective gloves. For these reasons, and others, we decided not to take our Bear along on the visit. He stayed home with Chico.

The Absolute Joy

It wasn’t entirely the same.

We were wearing plastic gloves (which were way too big for the Bug), and we didn’t feel like we could just relax into being there.

And yet…

It was just wonderful.

First of all, we were welcomed with a big smile and an invitation to come in from the rain, which is always nice.

And then we started browsing. Oooh the delight of browsing in a bookstore!

Careful to touch only when necessary, we poured over the shelves and shelves of books. Allen, the owner, very obligingly produced a pile of easy reader books when the Bug asked him if he had any books about the ocean.

Allen’s knowledge is vast, and he clearly knows his inventory very well. He found several books that the Bug was interested in, and I found several more on the young readers shelf that we could read together.

We didn’t linger long. Being in a mask and gloves isn’t really conducive to long-term browsing comfort. But we did walk out with a pile of books, including a boxed set of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

A Slice of Normalcy

Though it was an abbreviated visit, it felt something like normalcy. It made me realize how much I miss being able to pop into a bookstore, or visit a café.

I’m so thankful that Books and Other Found Things has weathered the storm so far, and I hope Allen continues to weather it. It would be such a shame for Leesburg to lose this business.

It seems that other businesses have not been so lucky. Not far from us is Comic Logic, a comic book store that we wanted to visit, too. Sadly, their hours are significantly reduced, and they’re only open three afternoons a week. I can only assume that means things aren’t going too well. We’ll try to get there during their opening hours.

Not There Yet

We’re not back to normal yet, but today’s visit felt like a little step towards it. Like the hope of light at the end of the tunnel. I just pray that when we do get through the tunnel, the small businesses we love will still be with us.

The Joy of Reading

It feels so decadent.

It almost feels sinful…

To sit down and pick up a book…

…In the middle of the day!

Early Pleasure

I’ve always been a reader. I don’t even remember learning to read. As far as I can remember, I’ve always been able to.

My happiest memories of childhood are of our family reading together.

We read about NIMH, Narnia, Middle Earth, the cupboard, the high seas, deep space, jungles… More places than I can remember.

When we outgrew family reading time, I started reading on my own. I was never as voracious a reader as my brothers, but I was always reading something.

Forgotten Pleasure

When I was studying I found it hard to read for pleasure, as I am a slow reader and spent so much time reading school materials.

But upon graduating from college, I moved back home and started working a job that had a 30 minute commute by public transport. Perfect. My love was rekindled.

After having children, though, my reading slowed way down.

And then, after my mother died, I nearly stopped reading altogether.

Shared Pleasure

Reading was something I shared with my mother. It was something we did together. Almost everything I read was a recommendation from her.

She had majored in English and was always a deep and thoughtful reader. By reading the same books, we could talk about them together, too. Long after I’d stopped writing papers for English class, I’d still be discussing and arguing them with my mother.

When she died, that font dried up. There was no one else I could really talk about books with.

Many of my friends and family read constantly. But either they restrict their discussion of books to their book groups, or their tastes and interests are very different from mine.

And sadly, many friends, like me, have drifted away from reading because they feel they don’t have time. Whether it’s because of kids or work.

Necessary Pleasure

Since moving back to the States where I have access to a wonderful public library system, my love of reading has rekindled.

Access to English-language books is helpful.

Developing the courage to make my own reading choices and branch out into the unknown is also helpful.

Suddenly, despite not having my reading guru–my literary guide–anymore, I have fallen in love with reading all over again.

Now, with the pandemic, struggles with mental health, small children at home, isolation and boredom pressing in–Now, more than ever, reading is a necessary pleasure.

The newspaper. Magazines. Children’s books. Nonfiction, history, social sciences… And yes, the novels I have always loved.

Reading Is Keeping Me Sane.

I’m currently reading Kate Atkinson’s latest in her Jackson Brodie series, Big Sky.

In between novels, I’m reading chapters of El infinito en un junco by Irene Vallejo. It’s a sweeping history of books themselves, the earliest written word and the first libraries.

What are you reading?

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