Monday, February 18, 2008

Motivational Reading

I have always been a book addict. When I was a child and punishment proved necessary, my mother would send me to my room, but only after removing whichever books I happened to be reading at the time. Or, worse, she'd send me outside to play. Without my book. In college, I did not allow myself any non-assigned fiction during the semester, because I knew that I'd just get lost in a book and neglect my studies (which, frankly, didn't need any more neglecting).

Balance was not impossible for me, just challenging. I was, after all, successful in a career for ten years, and it wasn't the sort of career that smiled upon the reading of novels at work.

After Ellie was born, I suddenly had no time to read, and I didn't pick up a single novel for six months. I underwent a lot of major life changes during that period, including becoming a mother, having a Very Sick Child, and temporarily leaving my career, but perhaps the simple fact that I was not reading was the most damaging to me.

So when Ellie was six months old, I joined a friend's book club, and it felt like I had surfaced for air. I quickly found time to read not just the selected books, but other fiction too. Sure, I slept less, but it was worth it. Oh, so very worth it. Eventually, I started a second book club, which has a completely different feel and reads very different books. In both groups, we rotating "hosting" duties every month - though we don't always meet at our homes - and the host selects the book. Here's what my two book clubs read in 2007. Can you guess which one I joined and which one I started up from scratch?

Book Club One
A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer
Nice Girls Finish First by Alesia Holliday
Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
Random Family by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc

Book Club Two
Night by Elie Wiesel
Kindred by Octavia Butler
Birds of America: Stories by Lorrie Moore
The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah
The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin
The Dangerous Life of Altar Boys by Chris Fuhrman
The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
Bearing Witness by Michael A. Kahn
White Teeth by Zadie Smith
Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey

I'm not giving up either book club (though I might miss a few titles here and there) but I'm thinking I might try to dial the reading back a little, in order to squeeze in more time for the sleeping and the writing, and probably the exercising, too. Alas. Perhaps Newsweek, Parents, and - gasp - television will have to feel the pruning shears.


  1. I have read 3 books on list two, none on list one. I have really wanted to join a book club, if for no other reason than I am often describing myself as affiliation-starved. I have no idea if that means anything to you, but it describes me to a T.

    At any rate, balance is a good thing. I find the only time I have to work out is by getting up early in the morning, which is AWFUL, but so is feeling like a slug, so I side with awful. Parents magazine, the only thing I read regularly in it is the parent blooper/funny kids page. Tee hee!

    I was punished by book removal too, which was positively barbaric! I hope both my kids grow up to feel exactly the same way about books as I do.

  2. I have now read all the books on list two, but only 2-1/2 from list one (oops). And I don't even know what that book group read in January and February, when I was busy having Ada. : )

    With my other book club, though, I went to a meeting - having read the book! - about a week after Ada was born. I remember this clearly because I wasn't supposed to drive yet, so Paul took me.

    I do a lot of other reading, too, favorite authors, books loaned to me by friends and family, that sort of thing. I guess I've already read at least 6 books so far this year, plus a lot of Newsweek.

    But one of the things I love about a book club is being "forced" to read things I never would have picked up otherwise. Also, the evenings out with girlfriends, snacks, and conversation rock.

    Exercising . . . I'm more of a late at night kind of person. My girls are often up by 6:00, and I don't consider waking up before that to be humane!

    Affiliation-starved: that's funny!