A Year of Reading

“That’s a different book than last week,” she commented, “Do you actually find time to read?” She questioned with both her words and her eyes, almost as though she were daring me to tell her the truth, as though this were an unwritten rule in the world of us mothers.  

I nodded slowly, book in hand.  As the girls were participating in their weekly lesson, I read. Each week I sit, book in hand, being sure to glance up every few minutes to check on what they were doing and to catch their eye. 

“When do you find the time?” She questioned.

I dog-eared my page, and sat silent.  I honestly didn’t know how to answer. How could I say that I simply make the time, that I take the book with me wherever I go, that I read in the bath, that I read each evening before bed, I read because this is who I am, and that I need to make the time.  Would a non-reader understand?  And so I simply smiled and shrugged. I wasn’t trying to disrespect this apparent unwritten rule of motherhood.  It’s just who I am. 

 I don’t remember when I became a reader.  I read a bit growing up as a kid, I have fond memories of The Babysitter’s Club series.  I am one of the few who read all of the required books in high school, yes all of them.  There was definitely a lot of required reading in university, much of which was actually very interesting to me. And then when I got a job where I made enough money to buy s few luxuries, I started buying books.  Lots and lots of books.  

Reading is my thing.  I read quickly and voraciously.  I read to learn, I read to find answers, to connect to others who are like me, and moreso to experience life of those who are not.  I read to escape.  I read to be entertained.  Reading makes me think. It takes me to other places in time and history and pushes me to question and grow and wonder.  Reading is calming, comforting, my happy place. I go to the beach mostly to read.  My ideal day involves waking up and lying in bed reading a good book.  

I have read hundreds of books in the past few years.  Some have been amazing, some less than stellar, ones I stayed up until the wee hours in the morning to finish, and others I’ve abandoned only a few chapters in. Some might suggest this has crossed from habit or pleasure to addiction… 

However, Sarah Ban Breathnach, in her book, Simple Abundance, says, 

In life, there are women who read and women who read too little.  There aren’t women who read too much, because this is an impossible feat … Reading is the last refuge for addictive personalities; there are no bad side effects from reading too much… Whoever said that you can’t take it with you obviously never read a good book.  For everything you’ve ever read is now part of your consciousness.  

Lately, I’ve been listening to a podcast called, “So what should I read next?” Each episode, the host asks the guest to share books they’ve loved, a book they didn’t and what they are currently reading. 

This got me thinking … what books would stand out for me? Which books or characters have stayed with me? Which books are forever a part of my consciousness? 

“Momma Zen,” by Karen Maezen Miller, is a book I return to again and again.  Almost every page is dog eared or underlined or has writing in the margins.  As someone who struggles with worry and anxiety, who struggles to find a middle ground between home and career, this book reminds me that life and fulfillment come from the ordinary, sometimes mundane, often isolating, definitely awakening moments of being a mom. 

“The Light Between Oceans,” by M.L. Stedman was one of those books that I stayed up far too late finishing, tears staining my cheeks, trying to contain the sobs, not wanting to wake anyone in my sleeping house.  Upon finishing it, I wanted to shake B awake to share what I had just read, but instead lay there in the dark, trying to sleep, while imagining the circumstances of the story; questioning if it is ever right to do the wrong thing, and feeling guilty for perhaps empathizing with the wrong character.  

I read a lot of parenting books, but this thrift store find, that just happens to be signed by the author, is one that I make the time to read again and again.  I have even passed this one on to B to read.  Why? Because awhile it has many good and practical ideas to guide our children to be independent and responsible, at  its very core it’s really about having and treating kids with dignity and respect.  

I love historical fiction books.  There’s something about being engrossed in a different time and place, where you are learning about history while simultaneously being caught up in a fictional story, that is so captivating to me. “The Secret Keeper,” by Kate Morton, and “Those who Save Us,” by Jenna Blum, are both set during WWII and “The Kitchen House,” by Kathleen Grissom and “The Cellist of Sarajevo,” by Steven Galloway, are set in very different moments of our history. 

I am very bad at remembering the authors of the books I read.  I don’t really have a favourite author, and normally don’t choose what books read by who they’re written by.  With one exception.  Kelly Corrigan, writes with such a voice that I am captivated by the very first page, and I have read everything she’s written, and will be sure to read any future works.  This one, “Lift,” is my favourite. 

Sometimes I crave a fictional story that I can easily get lost in.  “Everything I Never Told You,” by Celeste Ng, explores so many themes from family dynamics to gender roles to working women to biracial relationships, and I found myself eager to pick up this book each night. 

I find memoirs to be the ultimate experience of stepping into someone else’s shoes, to experience life as the other, to explore circumstances and situations that are so unlike mine, or in contrast, to find connection in unlikely places.  This memoir, “The Glass Castle,” by Jeanette Walls, about her and her family, is definitely one that has stuck with me years after reading it.  

Earlier this year I was looking for a book to read daily that would be both inspirational, thought provoking and helpful.  This book, “Simple Abundance,” by Sarah Ban Breathnach, has daily entries that I often find myself underlining, taking screenshots and sending to friends, or quoting here! 

When I think of the books that I don’t like, or find myself quitting early, it tends to be books that are a bit too fluffy, like Nicholas Sparks, or predictable, like Jodi Picoult books for example, I find these books follow a formula, and within the first few chapters, I’ve predicted what’s going to happen and how it’s going to end up.  Sometimes there is a time and place for these books, but too often, I find myself skipping to the ending and then finding something else to read.  I also don’t read any science fiction books, and am easily turned off by the unrealistic or futuristic apocalypse type books.  

Currently, I have two books on the go: 

“Untethered,” by Jane Lawson Timmer, was an easy read I picked up at the library for those late night or all day nursing sessions when I want something to easily fall into.  

And after having daughter #4, my brain has been thinking a lot about raising these girls the best I can. This book is not only grounded in research and science, but is also so respectful of girls and the stages they are meant to go through. 

As I think about the new year upon us, a time when we often commit to making or creating new habits, the recent addition of a new baby that has me strapped down to the couch for most hours of the day, has brought enough of its own change for the time being.  However, there is one thing I’d like to be more conscious of… and that’s my reading life. 
You see, while reading is an intregal part of my daily life… I’m not too thoughtful about how I choose what to read. I’m a bit whilly nilly about how I choose books: a random picking from the library browsing shelves, a quick stop at the thrift store, a recommendation as I am scrolling through social media.  And I’m terrible about remembering the titles and authors of books that I read.  

And so this year, I have 2 goals: 

1) To push myself to be more conscious of the books that I choose. To go outside of my comfort zone and challenge myself a bit as a reader.  

At first, I thought I would simply try to read a certain number of books this year, but realized that in itself wasn’t challenging.  Reading shouldn’t be about quantity, but quality.  Then, I found this reading challenge from The Modern Mrs. Darcy, and thought I might try this, focussing more on the reading for growth challenge.  

Second, I really want to work on keeping track of what I’m reading, and so I’m going to try two methods and see which one sticks.  The first is using the Good Reads app to save the books I’ve read this year, and the second is a simple list in my daily journal: 

I’m not sure what role the blog will play in my reading life… if nothing else, recording these thoughts will hopefully push me to at least try to challenge myself as a reader, at least for the first few months of the new year, as resolutions usually go. Most of all, I’m looking forward to the conversations we might have. 💕

 Here’s to a new year of reading adventures that await! 



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