Let's talk reading. Have you been doing much? Little? None at all? Only via screen consumption? Managing Editor Brooke Klauer shares her reading journey over the past few months, along with books and more books that are on her radar right now.
“Because I’m of the old-fashioned conviction that reading is a pleasure to be carefully guarded at all times.” - Jenny Colgan, The Bookshop on the Corner
Reading is, quite possible, one of my greatest pleasures.
So here’s what happened: Stay-in-place was ordered, and I dreamed big dreams of curling up in a big cozy chair while the fickle spring weather fought against the window panes, and I would read and read and read and read. Which is to say, time spent doing my most favorite thing. But in reality the mess of pandemic emotions, calming a chaotic household of three kids, husband working full-time from our bedroom, and me still attempting to scrape together a writing let’s-not-call-it-career-but-what-I-do-for-me-in-the-fringe situation left me grasping. And the more I tried, the more emotionally strung out I became, words swarmed, thoughts jumbled, and I just couldn’t read.
As the weeks blurred together, I fought for some semblance of structure, and my almost nine-year-old made the again request for Harry Potter. He has intermittently over the past year or so, but I’ve always wanted to dig in “at the right time” when he would fully fall in love with the characters, their internal and external battle of right and good, and all the brilliance J.K. Rowling affords us. If there was no better time than weeks on end at home together, well here we were. Together we tore through the first four books with an insatiable appetite for wands and wizards, Hermione and Harry, and lo and behold, I could read again.
Jenny Colgan’s The Bookshop on the Corner was my first full-fledged adult book of quarantine, and it was the exact far-off respite I needed, full of charm and grace, and just so happens that the protagonist is a full-fledged believer in the power of books. Me too. (But also, how much do I miss the library? So much. We have a towering stack of titles that sits unreturned over the last months of stay-in-place, all that were read multiple times. I’m very ready to browse and borrow again, as soon as we are able.)
In lieu, I’ve made a few book purchases to quell my need for new reads. When Fanny Singer and I were chatting support for small businesses, she shared her book-lover find, Bookshop.org. It pulls your order from independent bookstores across the country so in buying you are giving a much-needed community boost. Yes, please.
So here’s my latest haul (some purchased, some still sitting in cart, some languishing on my to-read list, all very much wanted):
The Book of Longings, Sue Monk Kidd
The Bookshop on the Shore, Jenny Colgan (sequel-ish to her above book)
The Giver of the Stars, Jojo Moyes (another power-of-book-related story)
We Must Be Brave, Frances Liardet
Writers & Lovers, Lily King
This Tender Land, William Kent Krueger
Wow, No Thank You., Samantha Irby
The Art of Showing Up: How to Be There For Yourself and Your People, Rachel Wilkerson Miller
Three Artists On The Expansion of Work, Creativity and Caregiving In A Pandemic
"Pandemic life changed my relationship with my studio back to what it had once been, not somewhere of guilt and stolen time but a sanctuary where I need to be to be my full self, and consequently the best parent and partner as well."
Mixed Emotions: Kay Brown on Finding Her Place as a Multi-Racial Millennial
“I think I would be considered somewhat of a white passing standard, but it diminishes the fact that I am still half black”
The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It For Life, Twyla Tharp
Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency, Olivia Laing
Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad, Austin Kleon (his blog is also a wellspring of creative inspiration)
For the kids, but also very much for me:
Astrid the Unstoppable, Maria Parr
Hello, Universe, Erin Entrada Kelly
The Girl Who Drank the Moon, Kelly Barnhill
The One and Only Ivan, Katherine Applegate
Iggy Peck and the Mysterious Mansion, Andrea Beaty
My sister just read Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch (her review: heavy, but worth it), and has since moved onto lighter fare with The Vacationers by Emma Straub. Which also makes me want to pick up Straub’s newest, All Adults Here (more especially after visiting her Brooklyn bookstore Books Are Magic earlier this year. It's a delight.)
And when I saw my mom last she hastily pressed her well-worn copy of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander into my hands, along with the next book in the series, Dragonfly in Amber. That’s a total of 1,797 pages, enough to find my way back into a reading habit, most definitely. (My mom would also like to tell you that she is reading The Winemaker’s Wife by Kristin Harmel and would highly, highly recommend.)
And if you are still finding yourself adrift in the world of words, may I offer this advice (and this) to buoy yourself back to the books: “Because every day with a book is slightly better than one without, and I wish you nothing but the happiest of days." (Jenny Colgan, The Bookshop on the Corner)