Saturday, August 31, 2013

I'm a book mutt

Today, I was asked what kinds of books I read.  Every once in a while, I get this question in some form; it's pretty much a given in a job interview any more.  What do you like to read? also basically equals What have you read lately? as well as What are you reading right now?  I've been thinking about it a little bit tonight because I don't feel that I have a concrete answer to give, something definite by which to define my reading preferences.  And I decided that I'm essentially a book mutt (or a Heinz 57 reader, take your pick) who dabbles in a little of everything and effectively defies labels.  Rage against the pigeonholing machine!  I jest...I'm down for labels because they're ever so nice and tidy.  I'm just too all over the map for that, I guess.

Here's the skinny on my book life: I'm a decided philanderer, blatantly unable to commit to a monogamous relationship with any grouping for very long. 

Here's the embarrassing skinny on my book life: People think I read more than I do.  People (I'm nodding at you, Aunt Janet) think I'm an inveterate bookworm.  Yet in the ranking of my current hobbies, "reading" is probably about 3rd or maybe even an alarming 4th on my list.  One syllable reason: kids.  They're so malleable, you can blame 'em for everything.  (Thunder thighs?  Kids!  High blood pressure?  Kids!  Ugly stain on the front of your shirt?  Me Kids!)  However, in this case, it's really true.  I can bake and pick tomatoes while the girls are awake and engaging in their crazy, but I can't read.  It's delegated to a few stolen moments here and there, usually bookends on my day.  BY THE WAY, what in the world has happened to me?  Over the summer when little bean would politely ask for some mama love around, say, 5 AM, I started to just stay up and read after finishing my little 20-minute routine with her.  Big A knows that she can't get up "until there's a 6 on the left" (firm rule), so I started to create a few minutes for me, myself, and my cats in the morning (they can be pretty demanding for some mama love, too).  One cup of bitter, dark coffee (I've come to adore this stuff at this time of morning, and not just for the caffeine), a book, a favorite blanket, maybe some toast, a recliner, a purring way to start a morning.  And even when I find myself falling asleep tired, I'm still making some reading in bed part of my wind-down routine, and that's just super, too. 

Now I've typed and typed and still haven't really addressed the issue at stake.  I like a little bit of everything.  I've been drawn to non-fiction more and more recently, perhaps in the last couple of years especially.  I'm pretty much always down for some tame romance (Nicholas Sparks has a place in my to-read list upon occasion--you know what you're going to get every time).  I definitely still revel in the classics once in a while, but I have to be in the right frame of mind and I have to have the right "busyness" plateau in order to read these; if I only get to read for 10-15 minutes at a stretch, intermittently, then I know I'm doing myself a disservice in reading David Copperfield.  So to that extent, picking a book from this group is like choosing a special dessert--you don't do it every day and revel in it when you do.  (Reading as dessert?  What's in my Kool-aid?  Well, reading Edith Wharton is seductive.  French pastry seductive.  Perfectly brewed cup of tea in delicate, fine china seductive.  Her work is dessert.)  Perhaps it would be easier to say what I don't read, and really, if there's a catchy cover, I get sucked in with the best of 'em.  I don't read sci-fi--tried it once for the boy in high school and politely abstain.  I don't read horror--again, I'll pass.  I don't read Amish lit.--actually, this is one of the biggest growing markets in romance literature.  And...that's about it that I can think of.

This is a list of what I've read recently (since the beginning of the summer, or so) including the two audio-books that listened to in my teaching commutes.  I've been around the block a little in different genres, so it seems like a concise little snapshot here.
*Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
*Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kealing
*Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys
*Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver
*Confessions of a Shopaholic & Remember Me? by Sophie Kinsella (which I also just checked out Wedding Night by Kinsella while at the library today...clearly, I have this new thing for her writing though I didn't even realize until right this minute that I have/will have gone through 3 of her books since June)
*The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
*Dinner: A Love Story by Jenny Rosenstrach
*Maya's Notebook by Isabel Allende (gush, gush, gush)

A little pop lit, a little non-fiction, a little chick lit, a little YA (though I pretty heartily disagree that Out of the Easy should/would ever be classified as YA), a little bit of whatever.  I often choose what to read based on either recommendations from friends or else what has the sweet cover on the NEW bookshelf in the library.  It's fairly haphazard and sometimes accidental, like when I find myself stuck with nothing to read at 9:30 on a weekday and have to actually (gasp) raid my own bookshelf.  Unfortunately, my bookshelf is half populated with the boy's sci-fi blah and complete sets of textbooks (which for an English major = novels) from classes like Native American literature and Chaucer.  I've been known to pick up my Complete Works of Shakespeare and find a play that I hadn't read before in a pinch.  It's been a while, but I've done it.  AND ENJOYED IT.  There's a time and a place for everything, and I enjoy me some Bard once in a while.

According to (how's that for a professional source?), "chick lit" is "smart, fun fiction for and/or about women of all ages. Story lines often revolve around jobs, children, motherhood, romance, fame, living in the ‘big city’, friendship, dieting and much more, usually with a touch of humor thrown in. Many of these books are written from a first-person viewpoint, making them a bit more personal and realistic. The plots can range from being very light and fast-paced to being extraordinarily deep, thought-provoking and/or moving."

Finding a definition for "pop lit" proves to be a little more difficult (in that it's not in the first handful of hits when I threw it into a search engine).  Goodreads offers the "best"  definition in a manner of speaking in providing a list of some examples: The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo series, Memoirs of a Geisha, Angels & Demons, and Water for Elephants are all on that list.  While these are all well stories, I'm sure, I have no doubt that they will ever enter the ephemeral, illusive canon of literature...the "IT" crowd used on high school and college syllabi everywhere.  

And that, my friends (especially you, friend who asked me, if you've made it this far!), is the reading saga of a book mutt.

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