Happy Reading

A few months ago, I joined the website Goodreads, where you can rate and review books and make bookshelves of ones you’ve read and ones you want to read.  It’s also a social website — you have friends with whom you can compare bookshelves and make comments or recommendations.  (My profile, in case you want to be friends.) It was quite the task to fill up my “Read” bookshelf.  I dove into my memory and tried to come up with every book I’ve read.

Scanning the list of books I’ve read helps me reflect on my life as a reader.

I remember really falling in love with reading around fourth grade (which is also the time that my glasses prescription went way up…coincidence?) I loved reading all the way through school, even enjoying some assigned readings.  I wouldn’t say I’m a prolific reader, but I get so much enjoyment from an engaging story with beautiful writing.

Some books on the list are not super memorable, as in they didn’t make it on my list, or I don’t remember what even happened (Cat’s Cradle? No idea what went on in that one.) Also, most John Grisham plots are melted together in my head.

Other books are linked to a specific time or emotion in my life.

A Wrinkle in Time reminds me of being home schooled when I was really little and listened to my mom read it to us (or did Lori read it?)  I remember taking in the aching and powerfully emotional ending. I think that’s one of my first memories of feeling the depth in a story.

In 5th grade, I tried to read Little Women, even though it was slightly intimidating at 47-chapters.  I knew Lori loved it and pretty much wanted to be just like her — whether I would admit it or not at that point.

Holding a thick Harry Potter hardcover still reminds me of pure happiness, anticipation, and Renes family vacations — they always seemed to be released while we were away on a trip.

Fahrenheit 451 will always, always remind me of freshman year of high school, and all the awkwardness that goes along with that time.

Fox in Socks is on my bookshelf.  I had to add it because it reminds me of when Rachel was a little squirt, and we would giggle as we tried to read the pages as fast as possible. (The tweetle beetle battle part is the best!)

Catch-22 reminds me of my year in the Netherlands, when I wrote a book report for it in my English class.  I enjoyed that report and class quite a bit as I was getting 50% or lower in a lot of my other classes.

My Antonia reminds me of college, a beautiful summer read while recovering from all the papers and readings of the school year.

I am so thankful for reading as a pastime. It has entertained me, made me a better writer, and showed me different views, life-stories, and places.

Here are some highlights of the list that I would recommend to anyone, anytime along with a Ten Words or Less Review:

  • My Antonia – frontier novel, so much heart
  • Count of Monte Cristo – long and achingly awesome revenge story
  • To Kill A Mockingbird – best novel told from child’s view. period.  (Yes “period” needed to be one of my words)
  • Olive Kitteridge –  short snippets focused on incredibly authentic characters. funny and sad.
  • Princess Bride – funny like the movie, more fairy tale charm
  • The Good Earth – viewpoint of Chinese history and thinking through one man’s life
  • Catch-22 – scattered but engaging craziness with puzzling layers and characters
  • Frankenstein – more heartbreaking than you might guess
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (yes, even for adults) – magic and whimsy held together sweet Bucket family

Sitting on my currently-reading bookshelf — “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin.  The idea of the book is basically to make a project out of your own happiness — you think about what makes you feel good, feel bad, and feel right and how you can keep yourself growing.  Then you challenge yourself to incorporate the good stuff and find ways to, if not eliminate, cope with the bad stuff.

I’m discovering that taking on your own happiness as a project may not be as selfish as it sounds.  If you look really hard at the things that make you happy, energized, and joyful, many things might be indulgent — watching movies, baking and eating cupcakes, or shopping.  Many things are less indulgent — pursuing your passion, engaging and supporting friends and family, eating well and exercising, serving others, or taking time for God.  In any case, if you’re happy, people around you are bound to feel the warmth, which is a great thing.

I like the book a lot.  It helped me realize some ways that I spend my time that don’t necessarily contribute to my happiness, while other things I should take the time to incorporate into my day because I enjoy them so much.

I decided that as my own November Happiness Challenge, I will do something that I might not set out the time for but would make me very happy.  I am going to read some of my favorite childhood books!  I already have a bookshelf devoted to them on Goodreads. I am excited and interested to see what it is like to read some of these books again as an adult.

I think I’ll start with a Roald Dahl favorite (Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, or James and the Giant Peach??)  Little House on the Prairie is a must as well.  The Giver? Holes? Where the Red Fern Grows?  I’ll see how many I can tackle in November and let you know how it goes!

  • What childhood books am I possibly forgetting?
  • Do you have any books I should put on my “To Read” shelf?
  • What kind of Happiness Challenge would you give yourself?
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5 thoughts on “Happy Reading

  1. I loved your book blog! It was so funny when you mentioned Fox in Socks because I have vivid memories of you and Rachel reading (or trying to read) that book together. And yes, we were always on vacation when the Potter books came out. I guess I have a different memory of A Wrinkle in Time. I remember you slowly escaping from the classroom as I read that book to Lori since it was a bit over your head at that time. I know that not many years later you grew to love that book.
    I would recommend all of the Little House books. Rachel and I had a blast reading all of them together the year I home-schooled her. Just for fun, read any and all Robert Munsch books you can find. Most of them are hilarious and huge favorites of mine. Love you Forever makes me cry every time I read it. But read it anyway! Every Christmas I read My Dad Ran Over a Frog to my students. I don’t know if they totally get it, but I love that book. There are many others I could recommend, but the last one I’ll mention is called I Hate English. It’s about a Chinese girl struggling to learn English. I know that many of my students have felt exactly like her at one time or another, whether they admit it or not. Happy reading! (Gotta go now, my book awaits!)

    • I will have to trust your memory with Winkle in Time. 🙂 I’m picking up Little House books today and will also look for I Hate English! I do like Robert Munsch books — Stephanie’s Ponytail just popped in my head.

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