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Posts Tagged ‘reading’

click

I will be reading a book and out of nowhere I will find one, a sentence, a thought, or sometimes just a couple of words strung together in just the right order and I’ll hear it.

The click.

The sound in my brain when something resonates, fits, slides perfectly into a gap in me that I didn’t know existed until that moment.

I’ll close the book, sliding my fingers between the pages so I don’t lose my place, and just think. Think about the sentence, the click, and appreciate how finding it in that moment has made me consider something I hadn’t before.

And then I’ll wish I could take it with me, rip the paper out of the book (which I would, of course, never do) and carry it with me in my pocket so I could have that feeling with me all the time.

For awhile I tried carrying a little notebook around with me and I would pull it out and write down these things when I came across them.

But then I would change purses and forget to move the notebook, or I wouldn’t have a pen, or I would have a pen but not the “right” pen and then it became more about the notebook than the thing I was trying to remember by writing it down.

It turned into a chore rather than a gift. And I have enough chores.

What started as a click turned into a thud.

Because what I really want is to remember them. I want to be able to recall them at will with little effort, no planning and without a notebook and pen. I want them to be in every pocket of every jacket I own and I want to be able to pull them out and comfort myself and make things make sense when they don’t.

But I can’t, it just doesn’t seem to work that way and so I instead try to just pause and appreciate them when they come along. I will consider them and mull them over like rubbing a smooth rock between my fingers before throwing it back into the water.

And I will open my book again and read, waiting for the next one to come along.

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From time to time I’m asked about good books that I’ve read recently.  I surround myself with people who love to read so the passing and sharing of book recommendations is fairly commonplace, and cherished.  To me, recommending a good book is like giving someone a hug to tuck away in their pocket and pull out when they need it.  However, as a solid memory has never been something in my possession with any regularity, I am rarely able to pull out the recommendations when they’re required.  In an attempt to fix this, I’ve decided to make note of my favourite books that I read this past year.  If you haven’t read them, give them a try; and if you’ve read anything good, definitely share them.  Just like hugs, you can never have too many good books.

The Unfinished Child by Theresa Shea

If you have a child, or ever thought about having a child, or if you have a best friend who is so much a part of your life that you can’t imagine living without them, this book is going to tear your heart out.  It was recommended to me by my mom and her recommendations are pretty much always spot on and this was no different.  I read the first 25 pages and couldn’t put it down and I carried it with me everywhere I went until I finished it.  The author manages to write almost the exact way things sound in my head and seeing the words down on the page made me think that maybe others think the same way I do.  It was like finding a friend and then living through something horrible with her, and realizing you’re so glad you didn’t have to do it alone.  This the kind of book where I basically locked myself in the bathroom while I frantically read through the last 50 pages because I couldn’t be disturbed.  And it’s also handy that in the bathroom I was very close to the Kleenex, because I certainly needed it.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

I have no idea how I found this book, or, more correctly, how it found me.  I must have read about it somewhere and put it on hold at the library.  Either that or by way of a magical book fairy it somehow ended up on the shelf with my name on it.  Either way, I’m very glad it found its way to me.  It’s a funny, quirky, loveable little book that when I got to the last page, I realized it had taught me a lot, but in a very subtle, I’m going to make you think you came to these brilliant realizations all by yourself, kind of way.

Goodbye for Now by Laurie Frankel

If you told me one of my favourite books of the year was going to be about a guy who creates an on-line dating program to match people up based on their on-line personas (emails, on-line shopping, video chats) and then ends up tweaking it to allow people to communicate with people who have died, I definitely would have rolled my eyes at you and questioned our friendship.  I have no clue how I ended up with this book on my hold list at the library (this seems to be a theme of my reading history for 2013), and truth be told I almost returned it without even opening it, but I’m so glad I didn’t.  The premise is just crazy enough to require you to suspend reality just a little bit, but still realistic enough that you find yourself asking “what if.”  Give this book a try, I did and I certainly wasn’t disappointed.

Signs of Life by Natalie Taylor

One of my favourite bloggers, Outlaw Mama, included this book in her 2012 book review post and when I read the blurb about this book, I knew I was going to have to read it.  I knew it was going to be horribly painful and gut-wrenching, but I knew I would have to read it all the same.  It’s a memoir from a woman who was 24 years old and five months pregnant when her husband died in a freak accident.  Enough said.  Read it.  I cried and (perhaps surprisingly) laughed my way through it and when I was done I wanted to track down Natalie Taylor and ask her to be my friend.  She made me love her and respect her and want to have her over for a cup of tea, all by the end of the third chapter.

A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy

If you haven’t read a Maeve Binchy book, stop what you’re doing right now and go to your nearest library and grab all of them off the shelf.  Then call in sick to work for the next week and read them, one after another after another until you come to this one, her very last.  And once you’ve finished them all, take a breath and then cry a little when you realize that Ms. Binchy is no longer with us and we will never have the pleasure of reading a new novel born from her brilliant and humble brain.  She is proof that there is exquisite beauty in a simply told story with characters you want to know and places you want to visit.  Her books, for me, are like a cozy, well worn blanket that you curl up with on a cold day: comforting, familiar and always, always warm.

Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler

My mom told me to read this book.  She told me to read it on a Monday and asked me on Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday if I’d read it yet.  I told her my library didn’t have a copy yet but I would put it on hold when I saw it.  She told me she couldn’t wait that long; couldn’t wait that long for me to read the book so we could talk about it.  That’s how much she loved this book.  I have to admit, I went in with pretty high expectations, perhaps unrealistically so, but this book still turned out to be one of the best of the year, and that definitely says something.  There’s a twist at the end that you may see coming, but it doesn’t make it any less amazing.

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks

If 2013 was the year that I was caught off guard by books, this one goes to the top of that list.  It’s a book written from the perspective of Budo, the imaginary friend of an interesting little boy named Max.  Normally that would have been enough to get me to put the book right back on the shelf but a strong recommendation from my bestie made me give it another chance.  She was right, I was wrong, and this book is amazing.

Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

There are books that touch you, and then there are books that change you.  There are books you like, and then there are books you love.  There are books that make their mark, and then there are books that draw a line in the sand that is so distinct that everything else comes either before or after.  This book turned out to be all of those things to me.  Some day when I can find the right words there will a post just about this book, and how it came to find me at just the perfect moment, but until then I will simply add it to this list and recommend that you give it a try.

Happy reading from the Polka Dot Palace!

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the library

A special shout out to the Eagle-Eyed Editor for passing along this writing prompt in response to my “stuck on repeat” post.  As soon as I saw this suggestion on the list, I knew I had to write it.

“The Library that means the most to you.”

When my daughter was eight months old we moved to a new house, in a town about half an hour from where we used to live.  I didn’t know anyone, I didn’t know where anything was, I didn’t know anything.  I was also on maternity leave which meant I had hours upon hours upon hours alone with my daughter during the day.  And, as those of you with kids know, there are only so many hours you can spend playing with Duplo before your brain begins to shrink.  After just a week of being in the house, I was bored.  I needed to find something.

So I packed my daughter up in the stroller and off we went, looking for something.  What we found was the library.

It was only about a 15 minute walk from our house, down a beautiful tree-lined street.  It was September, the leaves were changing and the whole street seemed to be on fire.  The library was at the end of the street, an old, dark, depressing looking building but, upon closer inspection, I could see some construction trucks tucked in behind.  They were in the process of building a new library, right behind where the old one stood.  Once it was done they would tear down the old one and put in a courtyard where it used to be.  It wasn’t much to look at, but it was what was inside that mattered.

We made our way up the ramp that led us to the second floor.  I had to struggle to get the stroller through the door and I was wondering if maybe it wasn’t such a good idea after all.  But once I got inside I knew I was home.  All of the books, shelf upon shelf upon shelf.  The light was dim, the carpet was dark, the windows were small but I didn’t care.  My eyes adjusted quickly and my heart beat faster; I hardly knew where to begin.

I don’t remember how long we stayed that first day.  Knowing my daughter as she was at that age, she probably gave me 10 or 15 minutes before she started to fuss and whine in her stroller, no longer entertained by the crackers or toys or keys from my pocket.  I can’t remember how long we stayed but I can pretty much guarantee that by the time we left, the bottom basket was full of books.  I probably never even read half of them but just the idea that I could if I wanted to was enough, it was enough for me that day.  When my brain was shrinking from stacking and unstacking blocks all day, I could read a book and feel better, feel human, feel like maybe I could still matter.

As overly dramatic and cheesy as it may sound, I feel like that library saved me.  Whenever the walls of my house felt like they were closing in, I went to the library.  Whenever I felt out of touch with the rest of the world, I went to the library.  Whenever I just wanted 10 minutes to flip through the latest edition of People magazine and find out what the Kardashians were up to, I went to the library.  It helped me remember, if only for a few minutes, who I used to be.  When I used to read and read and read, hardly coming up for air, when I used to dream of one day writing a book that someone else would devour in the same way I had devoured the words of others.  Slowly I began to come back into focus.

When the new library opened, I went through the doors that first day and stood in awe at the floor to ceiling windows, the spacious aisles, the comfy arm chairs.  It was beautiful and filled with so many new books I hardly knew what to do with myself.

Nine years later we still live in the same little town but we’re in a different house and sadly, we’re no longer walking distance to the library.  No matter, I’m still there at least three times a week.  My hubby jokes that it’s my second home.  It’s really not a joke though because, next to my own home it’s the place where I feel most at peace.  There’s just something about being surrounded by all of those words, all of those ideas; it simultaneously makes me feel incredibly small and yet part of something incredibly big.

Maybe one day my name will be on one of of the books on one of those shelves.  Maybe one day someone who is lost, like I was, will find it and not feel so lost anymore.  Maybe.  You never know, amazing things can happen.

Especially at the library.

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In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I had my first ever blind date on Monday. As a happily married woman who met the man who would eventually become my husband when I was 17 years old, there really wasn’t much need for blind dates, but I was interested to give it a try, such that it was.

From what I’ve heard from friends who have done it, it can really go either way.  I decided to give it a try anyway and went in with high hopes, which was probably my first mistake. It really is better to temper your expectations, to be pleasantly surprised rather than hopelessly disappointed.

Lesson learned.

I picked him up at the library.  He looked so great, sitting there on the shelf wrapped in brown paper and tied up with string (just like the song, how could I go wrong?).

My date - isn't he handsome?

My date – isn’t he handsome?

Each book had a note attached to the front, a small “hint” so to speak as to what you would find when you opened it. I chose carefully, bypassing all those with thinly-veiled references to vampires (of which there were many). I ended up selecting the one that said “it’s not about knowing all the answers…it’s about the journey to find them.” Well heh, that sounds pretty much exactly what I’m looking for right now!

I checked him out and could hardly contain my excitement.  The woman who scanned him through the machine for me explained how the “date” worked.  I was supposed to take him home, unwrap, read, and then fill out the “feedback” form tucked between his pages.  If I did all of that, I could be entered in a draw to win a prize, as if getting to read a “surprise” book wasn’t reward enough.

I waited until after I got home and the kids were tucked safely in bed, letting the anticipation build.  I think my hubby thought I was a little bit insane but he has long since given up understanding my obsession with books.  I took a deep breath, sat down on the bed, and ripped into his smooth brown paper wrapping.

I exhaled, scanning the cover for some small sense of recognition.  I flipped open the cover and read the liner notes.

I sighed.

Foundation by Mercedes Lackey

Foundation by Mercedes Lackey

Now I love books.  Love them.  Devour them.  Can’t imagine life without them.  And although I would say that I have a certain “type” of book I tend to read more often than others, I consider myself fairly open to trying new things.  Looking at my “date” made me realize this was certainly going to be a test of how open I really am.

I took the book with me on the train the next day, convinced that I had to at least give it a try.

I made it about 30 pages.

Now don’t get me wrong, this book is great, extremely well written.  This author knows what she is doing, and judging by the reviews I read on-line and the sheer fact that she’s written and published more than a handful of books, she is very good at what she does.  It’s just not my cup of tea.

I decided that 30 pages is as far as this date and I were going to get.  There’s just no spark, no connection, no set of shared interests.  I fully agree that opposites can attract but it’s just not happening in this case.

So I’m going to fill out my form and send him back to the library where he can be enjoyed by someone else; someone perhaps who can enjoy his unique set of attributes.

And I will be just a little bit sad that things didn’t work out differently; lost as I was in my high expectations of finding something amazing there on the shelf, all wrapped up in brown paper and string.

But I won’t give up hope, and if the library decides to do this again next year (which I desperately hope they do), I will be first in line to try my hand at another blind date.

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Image Courtesy: 4freephotos.com

My hands are full.  I struggle to fit the key in the lock, turn the door knob that always sticks, and shoo the cat out of the way before he gets outside.  It’s freezing outside though, I don’t know why he would even want to go out there but there’s no convincing him.  I throw my purse on the bench, manage to get my keys on their designated hook on the key rack and slide my feet out of my boots.

I gently set down the reusable bag that functions as my library bag.  My purse I can throw; these books are important.

There are probably 10 or 12 books in the bag and if you asked me off the top of my head, I can probably name two or three.  Not a great number considering I only checked them out 15 minutes ago, glancing at them quickly as I slid them through the automated machine, stuffed them in the bag and hastily grabbed my check out receipt. I will make time to look at them later, when the house is quiet and my brain has settled, I will sit down in the middle of the floor with my bag and I will slowly take them out one by one, deciding which to read first, and second, and third.

This is my ritual.

Ten or 12 books is a pretty standard haul for me from the library.  At any given time I probably have 50 books on the hold list and at least two bags stuffed with books in various locations around my house.

Some people are addicted to shoes, some to purses, some to music.

Me?

I’m addicted to the library.

I justify it by telling myself that there are a lot worse things to be addicted to.  I mean really, I’m addicted to reading, how can that be a bad thing?  And I’m addicted to reading at a place where everything is free.  In my view there really is no downside.

I love everything about the library. I love the way it smells. I love the fact that it’s so quiet. I love the way I can get lost in the shelves, seemingly alone in the world.  I love the way I can walk through the doors and randomly decide that I want to learn about some topic like knitting or kayaking or how to make paper airplanes and there will be books about all of those things. Lots and lots and lots of books; just waiting for me to pull them off the shelf, run them through the scanner, tuck them in my little bag and take them home with me.

Some people have issues with library books; they don’t like the fact that other people have read them.

I have an issue with people who have issues with things like that.

I personally love the fact that other people have read the books. When I’m flipping through the pages I try to imagine the people who have done the same thing, flipping through those exact same pages. What were they hoping to find in these words? Did they find them? Did this book change their lives?  Did they cry at the same parts I did?  Did they slam it closed and throw it into the chair beside them in disgust, as I did?

One of my favourite things is when people leave things between the pages, little clues about who they are.  One time I found an invitation to a party tucked between the pages. The party was for a date months before and I wondered if they ended up going.  Did they have a good time?  Did they look through their purse for weeks wondering what they did with the invitation?  Did they have to call someone to get the address because they couldn’t find it?

Sometimes I find pictures.  Sometimes it’s little notes, grocery lists, a phone number jotted down on a square ripped from a newspaper, a piece of ribbon, a drawing from a child; the tiny scraps that make up someone’s life.

Quite often I find the check out receipts from when the book was taken from the library.  These are one of my favourite things to find because I love nothing more than to see what other people are reading.  I’ve gotten many great reading recommendations from people I will never know, just by seeing what else they checked out of the library.

One day technology may surpass the library.  Maybe it’s going to be all about the e-books and the e-readers and e this and e that, but I for one, certainly hope not. Because there’s something so special about sharing a book, even if it’s with people you don’t know. The communal idea of many hands holding the same pages, the interconnectedness of reading the same words.

And the amazement that comes from finding something special, long forgotten, tucked between the pages.

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I have a little personality “quirk” let’s call it that makes it almost impossible for me not to try things that other people are trying, doing, reading, eating.  Not for the sake of doing what everyone else is, but because I really feel the need to form my own opinion, throw my hat in the ring, add my two cents; you know what I mean.

This is especially true for books.  As I am pretty much a full-fledged book-addict I have to know what is new and hot in the world of books.  And then I have to read them…all of them…it can be quite a tiring process.  Believe me, if I didn’t have to go out into the world and earn a living I would be quite happy curled up in my chair with my comfy pants, hair in a messy ponytail, cup of tea by my side, and a book.

This was the case with the Twilight books which I fought tooth and nail to avoid reading until I finally caved and then proceeded to devour all four books in the span of three weeks, all while caring for two kids under the age of four.  ‘Go watch Dora kids, Mommy needs to see what Edward and Bella are up to.’  You get the idea.

I did it with Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, just about all of Oprah’s Book Club picks (although I couldn’t do Anna Karenina – even I have to draw the line somewhere), and I’m slowly making my way through Heather’s Picks.  If it’s written about in a magazine, talked about at the grocery store, mentioned on a tv show, you can usually bet it’s been added to the little list I keep on my phone of “things to read.” Add to that all the ones that my mom hears about and you can understand why I currently have 43 items on hold at the library.

So, baring all of that in mind, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that when all of the talk started surrounding “50 Shades of Grey”, I too decided I had to read it.  And read it I did.

Is it a great book?  No.  Is it a good book?  Probably not.  Is it highly addictive, infinitely readable and so graphic it made me blush?  Yes to all three.  There are books that are written to be great books.  There are books that win awards, books that will stand the test of time, books that change the lives of all who read them.  And then there’s 50 Shades of Grey.

By now everyone is familiar with the plot and the fact that it’s not particularly well written.  It really does go to show that you don’t have to be a great writer to get a book published.  Some writers I know find this frustrating but I actually find it quite liberating.  Why waste a whole bunch of time wrestling over the proper use of a semi-colon when it’s really just about coming up with an idea for a story that people want to read.  I figure if this book can get published, there really is hope for writers like me!

This is a book that does not, in my opinion, pretend to be anything other than what it is on the face.  It’s a romance novel on steroids.  It’s borderline offensive to women, the dialogue is eye-rollingly cheesy, the characters are fairly simplistic and unimagined but keeping all of that in mind, I read it in about three days.  I talked about it to people more in those three days than I have any book in probably the last year.  After talking to them about it, I know three people who went out and bought it just because they wanted to know what I was talking about.

I’ve spent more time than is remotely appropriate debating who should play the roles of the main characters in the movie version of the book.  And I, a person who very rarely buys books (I prefer to get them for free from the library) has contemplated numerous times buying the second one in this series because I am currently 34th in the hold line at the library.

I think there’s room on bookshelves for all kinds of books, even books like this.  Because at the end of the day, I think any book that gets people reading and makes them want to keep reading is doing its job.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go find my credit card so I can download “50 Shades Darker” because who am I trying to kid?

There’s really no way I can wait.

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