Forever a bookworm

Buckle up for some humblebragging.

I could read before kindergarten. In fact, when I went into kindergarten, I once got in trouble for reading the teacher’s lesson plans. THAT WERE IN CURSIVE.

In first grade, during reading time, the teacher sent me to the class with fourth- and fifth-graders to read with them.

All through elementary school we did the Book-It Program with Pizza Hut where you got a free pizza and stuff once you’d read a certain number of books each month. And guess who was at Pizza Hut quite a lot in those days? Yours truly. Because books. And also because pizza, of course.

So, I’m a bit of a reader, you’d say.

My reading got me in trouble when I was in middle school because I decided to try out some more Stephen King after I’d read his “Eyes of the Dragon” and enjoyed it. The book I chose next? “IT.” Weird, suddenly I’m fucking terrified of clowns forever.

Another time books betrayed me – and actually continue to – was when I went to a bookstore. For as long as I can remember, and before, according to Mom, one thing happens when I get to a bookstore. I always have to poop. (We were done with the humble bragging part, in case you were confused.)

For the longest time, I felt alone in my affliction. Was it the excitement of being in the bookstore that caused it? Was it the anxiety of having to pick just one book out of all of these on the shelves? Was it lactose intolerance? (Probably).

But apparently it’s a legit thing that happens to lots of people. And even has a name.

Anyway. All of this is to say I like books. I like reading. My ideal desert island scenario is an endless stack of books, a hammock and Chris Pratt.

It’s also why one of the things on my Life List is “Start a book club.”

Do you know how hard it is to start a book club? (First world problems, I know, shut up). There’s the finding others as interested as you are, coordinating schedules, deciding on books, deciding on food… it’s not as easy as it seems!

My friends and I have mentioned the idea of starting a book club a few times but it never went anywhere. We would be talking about a book one of us read and then say “Oh we should start a book club” and forget about that thought by the next day. We’ve had unofficial tiny book clubs in the past where a few of us will read a book recommended by another one of us and kind of sort of talk about it in passing.

And book clubs in movies and TV always look so exciting. Like all these friends get together and have wine and snacks and talk about a book – THAT’S THE DREAM.

Around sometime in September, with the threat of winter ahead where nobody feels like doing anything, the book club idea got brought up again. But this time, it became more serious. My friends and I decided to actually make it a thing. Mainly for the food.

We got real official with it, too. We figured out a date that would probably work for all of us, decided we’d all bring food and a drink of some sort, and created a poll filled with suggestions of books we all wanted to read and everyone voted on that month’s winner. LEGIT.

And of course there were rules. Basically we’re like a fight club but with reading.

1. You can’t talk about the book with any book club member until we all meet and discuss.

2. Our meetings have to have food.

3. No new members unless we all approve of them.

4. You have to have finished the book by the time we meet up (we’ve gotten slightly lax on this one a couple times since because life.)

The first book we chose was my suggestion – Samantha Irby’s “We Are Never Meeting in Real Life,” because I’d heard about it from several blogs I follow and on Twitter and it sounded right up my alley as far as humor and whatnot.

Reviews of all the books we’ve done so far are at the end of this post.

At that first meeting, a couple of the girls were sick, but the rest of us met and ate entirely too much food (I still dream about the salad bar that Kristen brought). And then settled in to talk about the book. We started with “Did you like the book?” but by the end of it were talking about much deeper stuff, brought there by some of the things the author had written and other things that we’d felt based on what she wrote and how she wrote it.

You guys, my little book nerd heart was so happy…

I don’t know what it was specifically, or if it was a combination of a lot of things. I loved having this time with my friends. I loved that we’d all read the same book. I loved that it sparked discussions of all sorts. I loved that some of us had different opinions and some of us felt strongly one way or another about things. It made me feel somehow more adult – I can’t explain it.

Since that first meeting, we’ve read four more books. We’ve all had all kinds of thoughts and feelings about all of them and the discussions we have had have been as light-hearted as “How were you picturing this character?” or “Were you pronouncing her name this way or that way when you read it?” to “If this was you though, and your child/mother/friend, how would you have reacted?”

It’s been so awesome. And it’s actually pushed all of us to read much more than we had been before we started the Book Club. It’s like suddenly there aren’t enough books and there are too many books all at once.

And I think doing something for five months straight makes it pretty official, so I’m going to go ahead and say we are official. I mean, we even have a Facebook group and a group text, so…

I highly recommend doing something like this with your friends. Maybe it’s not books you talk about. Maybe its a TV show? Maybe you knit or something? Or scrapbook? (I don’t have the patience for those last two but really appreciate those who do, just FYI).

Whatever it is, it’s essential. I consider this a form of self-care. It’s something I look forward to every month and something that makes me happy.

And I’m reading books I may never have picked for myself, so I’m finding new genres I may like which just gives me that many more books to choose from at the bookstore. Which means I have to poop again.

Book Reviews:

October – We Are Never Meeting in Real Life, Samantha Irby
She’s a good writer, don’t get me wrong, but I finished the book feeling bad for her. It wasn’t because of what had happened to her through her life, it was that she was really sad, or seemed to be. The whole book was so self-deprecating. I don’t mind that, in moderation, but when you seem to dislike yourself that much, how am I supposed to like you? I was disappointed because lots of bloggers and writers I follow on Twitter had raved about this book and I basically just tried to get through it.

November – The Girl Before, JP Delaney
This wasn’t a good book. It had an interesting premise, and yes I continued because Book Club but also kinda because I wanted to know what happened next, but at times it veered into Fifty Shades/Twilight territory and it wasn’t really written well so I don’t recommend. Also, thus far it’s the only book we’ve read written by a male author.

 

December – When We Were Worthy, Marybeth Mayhew Whalen ⭐⭐
This book was the first one we’d read I liked. It was a decent story, by a much better writer than the previous month. Small-town drama and a couple twisty things I liked, 8/10 would recommend for a beach read.

 

 

 

January – Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
I really, really liked this book. I’d read some of Celeste Ng’s writing before, and saw this book on like, ALL the “Best of” lists from 2017 so had high hopes. She didn’t disappoint – it was good from start to finish, and though I had the flu the day the girls met, I was FaceTime-d in for some of the discussion, which was definitely the best one we’ve had since we started the club. There’s some serious, complicated stuff in that book and it was awesome to hear everyone’s views on it.

 

February – Rabbit: The Autobiography of Ms. Pat, Patricia Williams
I haven’t started it yet because it’s fairly short and I want it fresh on my mind when we meet for Book Club, which isn’t until the end of the month. Some of the girls have finished it already though and like it a lot, so I’m excited.

 

 

Happy reading, friends!

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I wonder if his friends call him Huggy Bear

Sometimes I see blogs like People of Walmart or People of the Park and think “Why couldn’t I come up with something like that?” I mean, I like people-watching as much as the next person and it’d be awesome to get paid just for leaving the house and seeing what the crazies and weirdos are up to. And write about it.

Case in point, today at Half Price Books.

I went to the bookstore to try and see what I could find to add to my shrinking stack of books I need to read. While I was there, I saw this guy – had to be somewhere around my age – walking around talking loudly on his cell phone. When I got to the front, he’d gotten off the phone. Before I tell you anymore, let me paint a picture for you. Like I said, he’s about my age. Bigger, football-player sized, white guy, wearing a Sapp jersey and baggy pants. He had a neck tattoo and since he was not looking at any books, just kind of walking around the store, I started wondering why he was in there.

Cut to the front of the store, where I see as I walk out the loud gentleman in the football jersey sitting at one of the front tables. What is he doing? Coloring a picture of a teddy bear. I kid you not.

Wouldn’t have been too ridiculous – oh who am I kidding IT TOTALLY WAS – if not for the fact that while in the middle of coloring, his phone rang, yet again. And instead of carrying on yet another conversation loud enough for the whole place to hear, he instead yelled at the person who called him. He said, “I can’t talk to you right now. I’m BUSY!” To which he was apparently called a bitch, because he threatened the person on the phone to “call me a bitch again and see what happens.”

And with that, he hung up the phone and went back to coloring.

Because a teddy bear picture is not going to color itself. Thank God we have tough men like him to make sure these things get done.

I’m gonna need a bigger bookshelf

My perfect day – if I could have a day just to do this and nothing else – would include little more than a comfortable chair and a stack of books. Oh, and lunch delivered from McAlister’s.

Seriously though. I love to read. Always have. And I’m pretty good at it. Insert moment of shameless bragging here: In the first grade, I went to reading time with fifth-graders. I loved when the Book Fair came to my elementary school, I always had at least three things circled on my Scholastic Books order form they’d send home with us, and that Book It program, where you earned free stuff from Pizza Hut for completing certain reading tasks? I was on it. Not for the pizza so much as the books. NERD ALERT.

I guess I’ve got a somewhat creative mind – I liked the reading and writing aspects of school infinitely more than the maths and the sciences. Like how I used infinitely back there? Hey, vocab! I think if I didn’t write I could definitely be a librarian, or work for a publishing company.

I’ve tried starting a book club, but it hasn’t worked out too well as of yet. But I’m gonna do it. It’s on my list, so I have to.

So what kind of books do I read? Well. My tastes have changed over the years and are still changing, actually. I started out, of course, at a young age, with “The Babysitter’s Club” series – which is why this blog appealed to me when I found out about it and MAN, I wish I’d thought of that… I also read pretty much every incarnation of “Sweet Valley High,” which I think I heard recently might end up a movie? I read some Stephen King stuff in late middle/early high school, which I probably shouldn’t have (more on that later). I did the mandatory reading for high school and ended up finding a few favorites, and some I wouldn’t read again if you paid me. Well, scratch that. It depends on how much you’d pay me…

In high school I found out I really liked “To Kill A Mockingbird,” though Mr. Marshall almost made me hate it because we had to write our own Cliff’s Notes for the book, a project that took about 35x longer to do than he took to read and grade it. I also found I liked “Beloved,” even though about five years after I graduated they decided to not allow it in our high school anymore…

We read some books I didn’t like, too. “Crime and Punishment” is not a favorite, neither is “The Great Gatsby” (sorry, Rach) or “All The Pretty Horses.” We read “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” which wasn’t too bad. Cool concept for a movie though, I’m still deciding if I need to see it.

College provided little time for reading because I was doing so much of it in my classes I didn’t have time to get into a book, much less feel like it after all the other reading I had. I did read during summer and winter breaks though – and college is where I really got into the Harry Potter series. When it first came out, I was in high school. My sister was reading the books and I thought they were for kids and had no interest. A few years later, I thought I’d try ’em out and see what all the hype was about – which I did with Twilight too but found I only kept reading to see what happened, not because I liked them. From then on, I was hooked. I’ve been to three midnight showings of the movies and the book release party for the final book in the series. In fact, I just got the third book in hardback, the only one I needed to finish my collection of all seven of them. Wow that’s a lot of numbers in not a lot of sentences.

In my post-college years, I’ve tried some different books. I’m open to pretty much any genre – except romance novels with cheesy pictures of Fabio on the cover with some headline that has to be read while breathing heavily – and any author. I like my books like I like my music, you hook me with one, I’m gonna at least give the rest of the stuff you’ve done a chance. For example, Jodi Picoult. Read one book, “Nineteen Minutes” and immediately started devouring the rest of the books she’s written. Same with David Sedaris and now, Jeff Lindsay.

I’m really into memoirs lately, more so than fiction. But I’ll give the occasional fiction a chance. It just depends on the subject. And the author. Like Stephen King, for example. Remember how I told you I probably shouldn’t have read his stuff at such a young age? Yeah, on account of how his book, “IT,” made me deathly afraid of clowns. But then again, his “Eyes of the Dragon” is one I read soon after and one of the few books I have read/will read more than once. “The Green Mile” is also pretty great. It’s a love/hate relationship. I have his new one on my list of books to buy, which, like this post, is getting progressively longer.

I’ve been told I should get a Kindle. Besides the ridiculously high price tag – I need to be saving for a new car, a laptop, a Wii…a girl’s got needs, even though all three of those actually kind of sound like a boy’s needs – I am hesitant to buy something that keeps me from being able to hold a real book in my hands. I already stare at a computer screen all day as it is, I want a book. And a bookmark. Preferably with a nice quote on it, or some puppies.

I’ve got some pretty good books on my shelf. Here are a few of them.

“When You Are Engulfed In Flames,” By David Sedaris
The first book of his I read, “Me Talk Pretty One Day,” is the first book that has made me laugh out loud while reading it – luckily this happened when I was at home, alone, not in Starbucks or something where I might look like a crazy. His books are memoirs, short stories about things that have happened in his life. The best story in this book is called “Solution to Saturday’s Puzzle,” about his cough drop falling from his mouth onto the lap of the person sitting next to him on a plane.

“The Eyes of the Dragon,” Stephen King
For as much as I like this book, it really should have made me want to read Harry Potter long before I actually did. It’s one of King’s older-ish books, to me anyway, it came out when I was 3. It’s about a kingdom. The king’s advisor poisons him, locks the heir to the throne away in a tower and has the king’s youngest son crowned king, who’s only 12, therefore needs help, which is what the advisor is there for. Pretty good stuff. And like I said before, the first book I wanted to re-read.

“Handle With Care,” by Jodi Picoult
I bought a Picoult book on a whim once, when I was at Walmart in college without a book to read. The cover looked interesting and the info in the jacket even more so. I finished it pretty quickly and proceeded to read everything else she’d ever published. Her books are so well-written they’re hard to put down. Each chapter is told from a different character’s point of view, and the stories are ripped from the headlines or at least sound like they should be. This book is about a girl with brittle bone disease and her family, who sues the mom’s OB/GYN for “wrongful birth.” She’s got a new one coming out in March, according to her Web site.

“Columbine,” by Dave Cullen
Before you think I’m morbid – especially because this is the second book about high school shootings mentioned in this post – hear me out. This book is written by a journalist. And seeks to disprove pretty much everything we thought we knew about the shooting that happened 10 years ago at the high school in Colorado. Like, that the shooters weren’t in the Trench Coat Mafia, they weren’t targeting jocks, the girl who actually professed her belief in God to one of the shooters wasn’t killed. The book jumps back and forth from events leading up to the shooting to what happened after. And Cullen appears to have done his research. A good chunk of the back half of the book is his bibliography. Hard to read at several points, but very interesting. **Update: Also, what I failed to add when I wrote this is that the book is just as much about media criticism and how easy it is to misunderstand what happened – as a member of the media, I find that the most interesting.

“Water For Elephants,” by Sara Gruen
Never thought I would like a book about a circus. Remember, I fear clowns. This book, however, is clown-less. Thank God. It’s instead about a guy who loses his parents in an accident and joins a circus as the show’s veterinarian. It’s a surprisingly good read and I’ve recommended it to several of my friends who were looking for their next book.

Then we’ve got my wish list on Amazon.com, currently about 10 books longer than it was a few days ago. On it? The next three books in the Dexter series – which has become my second favorite TV show ever, after LOST. Also, Dan Brown’s newest, “The Lost Symbol,” and Stephen King’s “Under The Dome,” which my mom got for Christmas and the book looks to weigh about half as much as the couch in my living room. It should keep me busy for a while.

I’ve also got “The Nanny Diaries” on the list, mostly because I saw a second one just came out and figured the first one must have been good, if they’re writing something else. Plus it got made into a movie. Then of course, a book for my coffee table – the Postsecret book I’ve got there now is kind of lonely. I’m ordering “Cake Wrecks,” by the writers of the blog of the same name. Hilarious stuff.

So, yeah, I like books.