Tuesday, January 6, 2009


I have only made one resolution this year. I planned to make none because I think resolutions are doomed to fail, but then I thought better of it. I needed to put down on paper at least one thing that I am going to do differently.

As a kid, I used to get lost in books all the time. That's not an exaggeration. I spent hours with books. Some nights, I would stay up long past my bedtime, just trying to finish one more chapter until I had read the entire book. Stories captivated me, and I had little interest in stretching a book out over several days. I grew up in a very small town in rural Alabama. Our public library had less square footage than some closets I've had. It took me about half a summer to tear through the library, reading every single age-appropriate book. This was the summer I read the Little House on the Prairie books, the Trixie Belden mystery books, biography after biography (if a First Lady has a biography for kids, I savored it), a lot of historical fiction books, and just about every series ever created. I even read some Westerns meant for adults. Louis Lamour passed my mom's strict requirements (no sexual scenes and no really bad profanity). I would leave with a sack full of books. When the librarian told me the limit was 14 books in as many days, I'd complain to my mother, "But that's only one book a day."

Running out of books scared me. I'd get on my last book and force Momma to schedule a library trip. Then, the inevitable happened. I'd read all the books they had that a young girl could possibly read. So, my mom loaded us (me and my two younger siblings) into our Bonneville one day that summer and headed to a nearby town that had a bigger library. This library was HUGE. It had more books that I even knew existed. I toured the shelves, salivating in particular over the display of young adult historical fiction. Oh how I loved to get completely lost in the Alaskan wilderness, the Kansas prairie, the Oregon trail. These books had strong female main characters, each of them with pioneering hearts. As I read these books, my imagination let me travel to places I'd never been.

Over the years, I have always loved read. That summer, by far, was my biggest reading adventure, though. That's not to say I stopped reading after that summer. I just got busier with the things of life. Junior high brought more sports obligations with volleyball and basketball practice every afternoon in their seasons. I joined the newspaper and yearbook staff in high school and got a job at a local newspaper writing an occasional article. I still played sports and started working at various fast food joints to pay for my car insurance. Maintaining my grades meant a lot of time spent on homework and studying, and I had little time left to read more than the required texts for class. I relished even those, though. In ninth grade, we all complained to our teacher, Mrs. Hayworth, about having to read 13 books in addition to several short story collections, a couple plays, and some poetry in literature class. Secretly, though, I thrilled at the thought of reading these books. I can't remember all the books we read that year but suddenly I entered a world of more "adult" books like The Great Gatsby, The Good Earth, and Romeo and Juliet. We also read The Outsiders and Jacob, Have I Loved, more contemporary books, easier to digest by the "non-readers." But, I loved them all.

Sadly, I have seen my reading decline ever since ninth grade ended. My other literature class required reading, but none as much as ninth grade. Whether that's part of the Alabama school curriculum, or if the rumors are true and Mrs. Hayworth really did take English steroids, I may never know. But, my reading habit declined through high school. Even though, I continued to love reading all the literature we read from Fahrenheit 451 to Jane Eyre to Farewell to Arms to Wuthering Heights to Our Town. (Thornton Wilder, I still LOVE you.) But, I missed the summer days of climbing a tree and reading a book while leaning back on a branch. I missed staying up until I couldn't keep my eyes open to see if the family could recover from a prairie fire. I decided to spend more of the summer time with friends, gallvanting around with my boyfriend.

Then, college came. Then, marriage came. Then, grad school came. Books became almost an enemy as I had to immerse myself in philosophical texts on my quest for higher knowledge. I missed consuming myself with a work of fiction until I had become a character in the novel.

Then, kids came. I read Goodnight Moon so many times that I memorized every line. The Bendon Bear series traveled across the nation with us. But those don't really count. Deep inside, I've longed for books. Reading has always been such a part of my identity, and for the past ten to twelve years, I've slowly cast it aside.

When Flower was born this past April, we had recently decided to make our living room TV free. While at home with the new baby, I spent a lot of time rocking and nursing her. And, I realized it was the perfect time to read a good book. Suddenly, with that first book I read, my cravings surfaced. I leapt at books like a hungry lion devouring an antelope in the African safari. As I read, I wanted to read more and more and more. So I did. And suddenly, I felt that part of myself coming back.

So, I've decided that my resolution for 2009 is to read more books, books that I want to read, books that inspire me, books that I can wrap myself around until I disappear inside them. I'm not making any charts or graphs or big lofty goals (Crime and Punishment one week, War and Peace the next), but I am cataloging the books I am reading this year so that I can easily look back at the end of the year.

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