A Renewed Love Affair

Oooh, did you decide to read this post because you thought it would be some juicy gossip about me or Chris?! If so, you’ll be sorely disappointed. We are coming up on nine years of marriage and are in a spot that seems to suit both of us very well: Boring Married Couple with Two Kids Who Sits Together and Watches Netflix at Night. As unexciting as that sounds, neither of us has any plans of straying; the mundane apparently suits us quite well!

But…I have renewed an old love affair. A love affair that is so far in my past that I had almost forgotten how sweet it is. My love affair with reading.

When I was a kid, I frequently had my nose buried in a book. At Christmas, I loved getting toys, like any kid, but I was equally excited to get new books. Little House on the Prairie, Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, Newberry Award winners, Nancy Drew mysteries…you name it, I loved it. And the library…oh, I loved a trip to the library! My mom didn’t like driving, so we didn’t go terribly often, but she made sure I got there every few weeks to pick out some new books to read.

In middle school and high school, I occasionally got in hot water for hiding a book behind my schoolbook and reading that instead. I thought I was incredibly subtle about this, but apparently I wasn’t. One time I had a cheesy romance novel hidden behind my Literary Cavalcade magazine, and the next thing I knew, my eighth-grade English teacher was booming, “WRONG BOOK, Cathy!” across the classroom. Good grief. And my best friend Lisa calmly informed me that I was not subtle when reading outside material in high-school chemistry. I used to plop my big book bag on the chem table where I sat in the back of the room and put my book flat on the table behind it, so the teacher couldn’t see it. But Lisa informed me that I would apparently get so into the book I was reading that I would hold it up in front of me as I was reading and start chuckling audibly at the good parts.

Is it any wonder that I wasn’t particularly popular among the teachers? As a teacher now myself, I realize how incredibly rude that was! At the time, though, I was just a self-centered teenager who really, really liked reading (and really, really didn’t find chemistry very interesting).

Then, after college, I started working as an editor, so I read all day long. I still read at night for pleasure, but not as much as before. And then once I had kids, I hardly did it at all. I always had a book going, but it would take me months to finish it because the only time I had to read was right before I went to sleep, and inevitably I’d read about four pages and then fall asleep. Because, you know, raising kids is tiring!

But several months ago I joined the gym. My reasoning was that we’re having an El Niño winter (which hasn’t turned out to yield nearly as much rain as they said we’d have), and I needed someplace to exercise when it was pouring rain and muddy on all the local trails where I usually walk.

I wish I could say that the gym has done me some good in my efforts to lose the fifty pounds I need to shed, but it really hasn’t. I’ve been going six or seven days a week for the past several months, exercising for an hour a day, and nothing. Not a single pound lost, not a pants’ size dropped. I think we can safely say that my metabolism and ability to lose weight stink. But what my trips to the gym have done is reconnected me with my love of reading. I have stolen Chris’s Nook e-reader, and I’ve been reading books at the gym. Instead of four pages read before bed, I now get a solid hour each day of reading, and I am loving it! I finish my workout feeling so relaxed and happy, because not only have I tried to do something for my health (as pointless as it apparently is), but I’ve also gotten to spend an hour reading fabulous books!

I realize that everyone has different taste in books, but let me share with you a few that I’ve enjoyed, in case you have taste similar to mine. (I tend to like character-driven stories where the main characters are a bit on the quirky side, though I do love a good plot-driven mystery as well.)

I whipped through almost all of the Liane Moriarty books, starting with Big Little Lies. I read that first one for my book club, and I have to admit that I thought it was just going to be fluffy beach reading. My book club usually picks good books—nothing too heavy or lofty, but usually not fluff either—but it just had the look and sound of a piece of chick literature. I don’t mind chick lit, but I don’t usually seek it out. So I was pleasantly surprised to find that Liane Moriarty’s books are actually really clever and well written. They have the ease of reading and the enjoyment of a chick-lit book, but they’re also clever, smart, and funny. I really enjoyed them; Big Little Lies and What Alice Forgot were probably my two favorites.

Another book that I absolutely loved was Be Frank With Me, by Julia Claiborne Johnson. I read a review of it in People magazine (see, I’m not hoity-toity about my reading! I love People magazine!), and it sounded intriguing, so I downloaded a free sample and was hooked. This is a book that I was seriously disappointed to finish because I enjoyed it so much! The plot generally follows a JD Salinger-esque author who wrote one book decades before and then became a recluse. Due to a bad financial decision, she has to write a second book so she and her ten-year-old son don’t end up out on the street, and the story is told by the assistant who the publisher sends to live with the author and watch over her son while she writes. Part of what drew me to this book was that the son, Frank, reminded me so much of Theo. So much. I really just wanted to pluck him off the page and hug him! His interests are different from Theo’s, but he’s similarly verbal with an old-man-like sensibility and some challenges in coping with the ordinary. I found Frank utterly delightful and could so relate to his mother’s simultaneous love for him and exhaustion from raising him. But aside from my love of Frank, I also just found the rest of the book to be a fun, interesting story with well-drawn characters. I’m really disappointed that the author doesn’t have any other books yet (this was her debut), because I so enjoyed it!

Right now I’m reading The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion, at the suggestion of one of the book-club ladies, and I’m loving it so far! It’s about a man with Asperger’s syndrome (I think, although I’m not far into it yet—but I think that’s where the plot is going) who sets out to find a wife, and it’s funny and touching and smart all at once. It’s another one that I can’t wait to read more of.

Just before that, I finally read Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, by Maria Semple, which I had been meaning to read for several years. I loved that one as well—it didn’t draw me in quite as much as Be Frank With Me, but I still really enjoyed it and found myself wanting to open it every chance I got. That story is about a genius female architect who goes missing from Seattle. It’s sort of a witty mystery, though not a traditional whodunit type of mystery. Rather, Bernadette takes off and her daughter, Bee, tries to find her by piecing together correspondence from her father (Bernadette’s husband, a Microsoft higher-up), two annoying mothers from Bee’s school who were in a spat with Bernadette, various doctors who’d been consulted about Bernadette’s supposed madness, and a virtual personal assistant from India who turns out to be…well, I don’t want to spoil the story for anyone who hasn’t read it. 🙂 It was a really cleverly told story, and I’ll definitely be checking out some of the author’s other work, as I don’t believe it was her first novel.

So right now our Nook is filled with book samples. I know some people can’t get into e-readers because they like the feel of a traditional book in their hands, and I get that—but I think one of the best things about e-readers is that you can download a twenty- or thirty-page sample of a book and make sure you like it before you spend the money to buy it. Honestly, if a book hasn’t grabbed me in the first twenty or thirty pages, I know it’s not worth my money to buy it. There are so many good books out there, I might as well just move along to the next one!

And so I will continue my somewhat pointless trips to the gym…enjoying every minute of it because it gives me a guilt-free hour of reading a day!

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