I’m sure there are extremely logical and disciplined individuals who happen also to be big readers, who tackle the long list of books they want to read and cross off books once they’re done like they’re crossing off their weekly shopping list.
For some people, regardless of what’s in their bookcase at home, they are as straightforward with their reading choices as they are with the weekly menus they surely must plan.
And now, I have a horrible confession to make. In the past year, I seem to have turned into a non-reader. Don’t get me wrong. I want to read. I love reading when I’m in the middle of the kind of book that takes me on a mini vacation inside my mind and when I get to the last page, I just don’t want to get back on the reality plane.
I still have the enthusiasm for hearing about books, to listen to Shelagh Rogers and others discuss books. Lately, I just don’t seem to ever get around to reading books the way I used to. And I’m trying to figure out what has led to this worrying state.
Is it too much scrolling on Twitter and Instagram? Is it aging and being tired after a day of brain work in front of a screen which is making me vegetative and making it all too easy to turn absentmindedly to another screen when I get home, where I begin pushing the remote as if I’m pushing the button for more morphine on my deathbed?
I’ve decided recently that everything I need in terms of reading materials is right in my own living room in my old bookcase so I’ve made a pact with myself not to buy any more books and not to take any books out of the library until I read what I have. I have at least 20 books in my bookcase that I’ve purchased at some time in the past or picked up from those little community book houses or have been given as gifts that I’ve yet to read.
I’ve always found it interesting that you can buy books and when it’s the right time for you to read a particular book, you will intuitively find your way to it. It will call to you as if you are the clairvoyant and it is one of your dead relatives saying, “May I come to you?” And you will say, “Yes, of course!” and you will sit down and read, leaving this reality for a more interesting or completely foreign one. At least that’s how it used to work for me.
Part of my problem, I think, is falling into the trap of believing that I should be reading a certain type of book. I feel that fiction is the cut above so I tell myself that I really should like to read fiction but too often, too many fiction books bore me and I can’t get through them without being distracted in the first 10 pages.
I believe the last book of fiction I read was Brother by David Chariandy and I did enjoy that book and I finished it. Yay! I also finished Chelene Knight’s memoir: Dear Current Occupant. When it came to David Chariandy, what drew me in is that I could picture him in real life having seen him up close at an SFU reading that Dionne Brand was at and so I was curious about the real person, because he has such an interesting look to him, and simultaneously while I might be daydreaming questions about him and his life, I could, let the story he created on the page flow over me.
And isn’t that what we all really love about reading? The seemingly infinite layers, the dimensions and the conversations that are going on inside our own heads while our eyes decipher the words on the page delivering them like take-out for the brain?
I read Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet mainly because I was fascinated by the real hotel in Seattle called the Panama Hotel and enjoyed relaxing there during happy hours at the end of my days last September on a short getaway.
I have been reading Embers by the late Richard Wagamese in the morning as a meditation. During my favourite time of day, the quiet of a new morning at 6 am seems like the perfect time of day to read that book because you can imagine him writing it in those same type of quiet hours that bookend a day.
Books, in this way, are like different types of friends. A friend for the movies. A friend for entertainment. A friend to go to concerts with. A friend for advice and on and on; a reason, a season, a lifetime.
I subscribe to literary journals, The New Quarterly and the Malahat Review and I do read them but not completely. Like a finicky eater, I pick and choose, testing them out, either going the distance devouring the uniqueness of the stories and poems or turning away, unsatisfied and often confused about what’s being said, seeking something if only I could put my finger on what that something was.
So, it would seem I do have a list after all, if I could just sit down and get at it, pencil sharpened, crossing off the list except I don’t believe you should ever approach reading as a should. It’s a passion and like all passions, love and shoulds are inappropriate bedtime companions.
Here’s a list of the books in my bookshelf that I’ve purchased with enthusiasm at the time and have yet to get around to reading. Avid readers among you will review these and think to yourselves, been there, read that. In no particular order:
- Milkman – Anna Burns
Mammaskatch – Darrell McLeod
Birdie – Tracey Lindberg
For Today I am a Boy – Kim Fu
The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore –Kim Fu
Heart Songs – E. Annie Proulx
The Parcel – Anosh Irani
The Break – Katerina Vermette
Dharma Bums – Jack Kerouac
The House of All Sorts – Emily Carr
The Vision – Tom Brown Jr.
The Conjoined – Jen Sook fung lee
Rudy Wiebe –Come Back
Ruth Ozeki – A Tale for the Time Being
Small Ceremonies – Carol Shields (read it in university, want to read it again)
Alistair McLeod – No Great Mischief
Thomas King – Green Grass, Running Water
Norwegian Wood – Haruki Murakami
My Family and other Animals – Gerald Durrell
A Room of One’s Own – Virginia Woolf
The Space Between Us –Thrity Umrigar
High Clear Bell of Morning – Ann Eriksson
Travels with Charley in Search of America – John Steinbeck
Malibar Farm – Louis Bromfield
Island – J. Edward Chamberlin
Dogs at the Perimeter – Madeleine Thien
Outline – Rachel Cusk
- Add to these books above, books that I’ve heard about recently that I want to read: The Art of Leaving by Ayelet Tsabari, My father, fortune tellers and me, by Eufemia Fantetti, Chop Suey Nation, Vancouver Noir, Fishing with John by Edith Iglauer (who just died at 101 years of age on the Sunshine Coast) and the list goes on and on.
I wonder what’s foremost on your reading list today?