When I Fell in Love with Reading

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Reading with my dad

I was recently having a conversation with a friend where he told me that he learned to read when he was about 3 years old. Even though I love books and reading, I was never that kid. My parents read to us quite a bit before I learned to decipher all the words on the page, but I do not remember being able to read before being taught in kindergarten.

It was clear from my early days in kindergarten that school was a place where I would be able to unlock all kinds of mysteries, and learning to decipher the letters on a page was perhaps the most amazing mystery of all. My guide through this brave new world was Mrs. Oliveras, a woman who was equally adept at playing guitar and unlocking the magic of reading.

On the day I first began my lifelong love affair with the printed word, Mrs. Oliveras took a few students at a time up into our classroom’s loft. We sat in a small circle around her, and I remember staring longingly at the pink stacks of paper held together by brads that she had in her hands. As soon as we were settled, she passed one out to each of us. On the front was a stick figure version of a cat. I would soon learn that this was Nat the cat.

Mrs. Oliveras worked slowly through each word and had us sounding them out until I was able to read my first sentence:

Nat the cat sat on a mat.

And with those seven words, I knew I had discovered something magical. With this simple sentence, I realized that something I could only experience through an adult reading to me could be done on my own.

If you regularly read this blog, you know where my love of reading has led. Even though I have moved far beyond Nat the cat and his mat-sitting adventures, I still remember that feeling of falling in love with reading. It comes to me when I find myself lost in a  good book or staying up late to finish just one more page. It comes in the beauty of a well crafted first line.

One of my favorite books from childhood is Go, Dog. Go! I think this book became my favorite before I could read. To this day, I consider it one of the best books written on the subject of dogs driving, holding parties in trees and wearing funny hats. Like the adventures of Nat, the book took me to new places.

When did you first learn to love reading? What books were your childhood favorites?

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Readathon Wrap Up #readathon

Another readathon has come and gone. According to the event organizer’s 1,723 readers signed up to participate this time. The event brought together readers from all over the world through the use of social media and a shared love of reading. As I mentioned in my previous post, I wasn’t going to be able to do the full 24 hours, but I managed to read 381 pages. I was able to wake up in time for the 5 a.m. start here in California, and that’s quite an accomplishment for a night owl like me.

I started off the readathon by opening my “Blind Date with a Book” that I had picked up at The Open Book in Thousand Oaks, California. I unwrapped the book and found By the Light of My Father’s Smile by Alice Walker. I was surprised to find an Alice Walker book hiding beneath the paper. I have read a number of her books, but I was not familiar with this one. And, true to Walker’s work, the writing was beautiful. My only regret is that I sped through the book for the readathon, so there are passages I would like to go back to and savor a bit more.

After that I picked up volume 1 of the graphic novel version of The Golden Compass. Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy is one of my favorite series, so it was like reconnecting with old friends when I stepped back into Lyra and Pan’s world. While the graphic novel version does not have the same magic as Pullman’s novel, it was an enjoyable effort, and the format was a nice break during the readathon. I look forward to picking up volume 2 in the near future.

Following The Golden Compass, I bravely ventured into the world of Kindles and ebooks by reading Different Seasons by Stephen King. The first novella in this collection is Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption. I have seen the movie version of this story a number of times, but, despite having the familiarity with the story, the written version really stands out as some of King’s best work. Unfortunately the need to sleep took over, and I did not finish this novella before the end of the readathon, but I did manage to finish it just before writing this post.

As for the Kindle experience, I sill much prefer my paper books. The one advantage to the Kindle is that it was a little easier to manage in bed than a regular book, but I missed the feel of how many pages I had read and how many were left. The little indication of percentage read at the bottom of the screen did not really replace that experience. I’ll read a book on the Kindle from time to time, but you will mostly see me with paper books–although several other readathoners did tell me to give the Kindle time to grow on me.

Once again, the online community really made this a fun experience. If you have not already, head over to your favorite social media platform, and read the #readathon posts. As I have said before, the readathon community is a supportive and kind group of people. I have never experienced any of the hateful, angry comments that seem to exist in many other corners of the internet. I could easily turn any free day into a readathon of one, but it is the online community that keeps me coming back to Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon.

The next readathon will take place on April 29, 2017, so start getting your stacks of books ready now.

Let’s Get Ready to Read! #readathon

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Last spring I participated in Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon for the first time. This is an event for crazy, book-obsessed people like me to read for 24 hours, and it happens every April and October. This month’s event kicks off on Saturday, October 20 at 5 a.m. here in California (check the handy event time announcer that the readathon organizers created to find the start time in your time zone).

I did not make it a full 24 hours last time because sleep pulled me away from reading, but I had a fun time setting aside a full day to immerse myself in books. In addition to all the pages I travelled through, I also had a fun time interacting with the online readathon community. The best part of this event is that it brings together readers from all over the world who discuss what they’re reading, post pictures of beautiful stacks of books and share in the joy of getting lost in a good story. As I have said before, the online reader community is such a kind and supportive place and such a nice break from other online communities that are filled with negative comments and insults.

You can see my stack of readathon books at the top of this post. These have been culled from my to-be-read shelves. There’s no way I will be able to get through all of these books, but I like to keep a variety on hand, so I can choose my next selection as I go. I have included several collections of stories so I have the option to read some shorter pieces throughout the readathon.

img_7216In addition to my standard stack of books, I will also be braving my first book on an ereader this time. This is quite a big step for me because I have been rather vocal about my hardcore devotion to paper books. I acquired my Kindle earlier this year when a friend got a new Kindle and was looking for a home for her old one. She was hoping that I would learn to love the device, which I have christened Readbot. To give the Kindle a fair chance, I downloaded Stephen King’s Different Seasons. I wanted to make sure I started with a book that is something it’s safe to assume I will like. Stay tuned to my blog for a post-readathon wrap up and my thoughts on my first Kindle-based reading experience.

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This time around I will also have my “Blind Date with a Book” selection that I picked up at The Open Book in Thousand Oaks, California. In their store, they have a section of wrapped books that each have a label with a short description. Here’s what I have:

  • Remote Mexican Sierras
  • Woman losing, regaining herself
  • Endangered band of people

My plan is to kick off the readathon with this book. It gives this night owl an incentive to get up early enough to start reading at 5 a.m.

Finally, I know I will not be able to read for a full 24 hours this time. I will be taking a break for a few hours in the early afternoon to make some calls at a local phone bank for Hillary Clinton. I had thought about taking the weekend off from phone banking, but this election is too important. Also, I have commitments on Sunday that I do not want to be tired for, so I won’t be staying up until 5 a.m. on Sunday morning, but I do hope to put in a lot of reading hours during the readathon, and I look forward to the lively discussion online with other participants. The organizers explain that this event is really in the spirit of fun, so there are no hard and fast rules. They encourage those who cannot commit to the full 24 hours to still participate as much as they can. Really the event is about celebrating reading.

For updates on my progress, be sure to follow me on Twitter.

Happy reading!

Readathon Wrap Up

Book & cupcakeSo the Readathon officially ended today at 5 a.m. here in California. I’d like to say I met that early hour with cheers and dancing, but I missed out on that part of the festivities. I decided to rest my eyes at about 1 a.m. and did not emerge from a book-induced coma until about 8:45 a.m. A day full of reading can do that to a person, but I am sure some literary characters snuck into my dreams, so I was not completely detached from reading.

To me, this event is not about how many pages were read or how many books were finished. It’s about celebrating reading. As the event organizer’s describe it, the Readathon is, “a ‘choose your own’ type of adventure.” In the days leading up to the event and throughout the course of the Readathon, readers posted pictures of the books they were reading, their snacks, cozy reading spots and furry friends snoozing alongside their reading humans.

I’m no stranger to forgoing my to-do list for a day spent immersed in books, so the Readathon seemed like a good fit. I knew that part would be fun, but I did not anticipate how exciting the online community created around the event would be. All throughout the 24 hours of the Readathon, other readers were posting pictures on social media, and each hour brought a different blog hosting mini challenges that offered a chance to win book-related prizes. I kept to Facebook and Twitter for my updates, but there was also activity over on GoodReads and Instagram. It was a supportive and fun community of people who connected over their love of books and reading, and I had a number of interesting exchanges with other readers. As I said in my last post, it was a reminder that there are corners of the Internet where kindness exists.

Book & wine

As for my reading, I started by finishing up March by Geraldine Brooks. I then moved into Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All be Feminists. After that I switched off between Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris and Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. I also listened to two episodes of the Selected Shorts podcasts so that I was able to go for a walk and get a few things done while listening to short stories. All in all, it was a successful day of reading that is spilling over into Sunday while thoughts of having to work tomorrow are still far enough in the distance that they are not bothering me.

Special thanks to the hosts, volunteers and all the amazing readers who made my first Readathon quite enjoyable. If you haven’t had a chance, check out #readathon on Twitter for some fun posts about the event. The next Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon will take place on October 22. Start working on preparing your to-be-read stack now!

Getting Ready for the Readathon

readathon stackLast year I achieved a win in my first NaNoWriMo back in November, and I am very much ready for another challenge in the reading/writing world. One of my friends shared a link to Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon, and I knew I had found my challenge. It’s quite simple: prepare a stack of books and attempt to keep reading for 24 hours. I feel like this is an event I have been training for since I first started to read.

Of course committing to reading for a full 24 hours is not without it’s hazards. Staying awake for the whole Readathon is probably not going to happen for me, but I do plan to get started at 5 a.m. on Saturday morning, which is the start time for my time zone. I will program the coffee maker, so it is ready to go when the clock hits 5! Participants are encouraged to share their Readathon progress on social media, so I will also be taking periodic breaks to leave updates here and on Twitter and Facebook.

A full 24 hours is a long stretch to commit to reading. I have saved up a few episodes of the podcast Selected Shorts to give myself a way to listen to stories when I can’t commit to sitting and reading paper books. This should have me covered during walks, cooking or anything else that takes my attention away from the printed word.

One of the best things about the Readathon has been the community of readers interacting online. The Readathon Facebook group has been a never-ending stream of stacks of books and comments about how each reader plans to attack their pile when the event starts. Reading a book is often a solitary activity, but if you are a bibliophile or have friends who are, you know that we cannot resist talking about our favorite books and what we are reading. Now imagine what happens when a bunch of avid readers share beautiful pictures of stacks of carefully curated books. More than one reader has lamented that their stack is growing bigger through suggestions from other readers. Yeah, book nerd problems!

In an age when so many articles online have comments sections riddled with hateful speech and insults, it is nice to have an online community that is dedicated to the love of reading. I found something similar in the online NaNoWriMo community where comments all tended to be supportive and friendly. It’s refreshing.

A number of people asked me why I did NaNoWriMo. After all, there are no prizes for a win other than a completed first draft. I can anticipate some folks have a similar question about the Readathon. To me, it’s like any challenge. Take a marathon. Most people who run such a race don’t expect to win. They do it for the joy of completing something that pushes and challenges them. I see NaNoWriMo and the Readathon in the same way, and I also like the idea of people all over the world attempting to spend 24 hours immersed in books.

Stay tuned for more updates. To see when the Readathon starts in your timezone, check out this list of times around the world.

 

My Favorite Movie is Book

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“Hey, you want to watch something?”

“No, thanks. I’m watching book.”

Books are ruining TV and movies for me. Whenever I turn on the TV and start flipping through channels, I have a hard time finding anything that holds my attention for more than a few minutes. It is not an attention span thing because I am perfectly fine sitting for hours with a good book, only surfacing long enough to grab a snack.

The same holds true for movies. I was talking to some friends about the recent summer releases. Both of them were talking about the movies they liked, and I found myself repeatedly saying some variation of, “I didn’t really like that.” I would usually throw out something about the story being weak or nonexistent. When talk turned to Jurassic World, I pointed out that the story was full of holes so big that a whole herd of Indominus Rex could run through. I loved Michael Crichton’s original books in the franchise. To see how his story evolved into a vehicle that existed for the sole purpose of special effects was disappointing. One of my friends simply said, “Yeah, but the dinosaurs were awesome.” Hey, I’m not going to argue with that. They really were.

But, I am not content just to sit and enjoy the spectacle of special effects when there is no story to back them up. I do not need a deep, complex story to hold my interest, but I do need something to hold onto and follow as dinosaurs and explosions flash up on the screen. This is exactly why I liked the recent installment in the Mad Max franchise, Fury Road. It had just the right combination of action and story. The story was not terribly complex and could be enjoyed simply as a good action movie while also offering enough to think about for those who wanted to go deeper with the story.

Unfortunately, there are more movies and TV shows like Jurassic World and less like Fury Road. As much as I enjoy reading, I sometimes want to enjoy a good TV show or movie, but I am finding that harder and harder to do. While some of it can be blamed on the quality of what’s on, I think more of it has to do with the way a story evolves in a book. I suppose it really is not a bad problem to have. I quite enjoy my time in the book world.

My mom used to tell me she liked action movies because sometimes she just wanted to watch something where she didn’t have to think, and perhaps this accounts for the large success of things like Jurassic World and the Real Housewives. In the end, we just want an escape from the stresses of life. For some of us, that may mean TV and movies, but for me, that will mostly be the book world until another show like Parks and Recreation or Arrested Development comes along.

Readers, what are your thoughts? Do you find that reading has raised your expectations of TV and movies?

Where I Read

Powells Tweet

On Twitter, Powell’s Books recently asked readers where their favorite place to read is. Of course, my first response was, “Anywhere there’s a book!” I mean, how can I pick just one favorite? If it’s a really good book, it doesn’t matter where I am reading it. I could be lounging in my favorite reading chair at home, sitting with a nice cup of coffee at a cafe, reclining on a beach or even standing in line at the grocery store.

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I rarely leave home without a book. When other people pull out their smart phones to pass the time while waiting in line, I pull out a book. Even if I only manage a paragraph or two before it’s my turn, the time spent in the book world is worthwhile. It is a little escape from the noise and chaos around me.

Reading motivates me to go to the gym more than the idea that it will help me get in better shape. A trip to the gym means time on the stationary bike, which is a great place to read. A way to exercise while reading? Sign me up! When I am at the gym, I usually have to tune out the loud music, sports on TV screens and guys who shout across the gym to each other, “Hey, bro! You lifting weights today, bro?” A good book can take me out of all that noise and activity.

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I was recently reading Around the World in Seventy-Two Days and Other Writings by Nellie Bly while on the stationary bike. I had just finished reading Bly’s interview with Susan B. Anthony when I looked up after I heard a cheer from a group of men standing directly behind me. Perhaps I underestimated the gym bros. Maybe they could take a break from staring at their muscles in the mirror to show enthusiasm for these two great feminist thinkers of the 19th century. Not so. I looked at the mirror in front of me and realized they were all looking above me at the TV. A baseball playoff game was drawing to a close. Sigh. As you were, bros.

There are a couple other readers who regularly use the bikes as a place to enjoy a good book or magazine. When I recently passed a fellow gym reader recently on my way to the bike, she eyed the book in my hand and gave me a knowing smile as though we were part of a secret gym book club. My favorite reader at the gym is the man who finds a way to drape newspapers and magazines over the handles on the recumbent bike as though the equipment was an exhibit on the modern reader in a museum of contemporary art. There is usually a stack of books and magazines on the floor next to him. I get it. Sometimes it can be hard to decide what to read, so why not bring options?

As the world gets louder and more and more advertising shouts for our attention, there seem to be fewer moments in our days where we get a moment of quiet escape. Books can still do that. Within a few sentences we can be transported to the English countryside during the Regency Era or to a place completely of the author’s imagination. It is for this reason that anywhere there is a book is my favorite place to read.

If I have to pick an actual place, it is this one: my big, red chair. I could spend hours there (and I have). Just put a cup of coffee by my side and good book in my hands.

Where do you like to read? Leave your response in the comments.

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