Meeting the Challenge: Sit Down & Read

assorted books on shelf
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From Mary:

A few weeks ago I accepted Kristen’s challenge to read this month. I confessed that it’s actually more difficult to find the time to read when the kids haven’t started school yet (and they still haven’t), and I mused that I would have to set an alarm and get up early to find quiet time to read.


Oh! Whew. Sometimes I slay myself. I love sleep. And while I did get up early some days, it was to get out and hike a bit while the world was quiet. It’s much more difficult to fall back asleep when I’m hiking than when I’m reading.

I did, however, carve out some time during the day—not every day, but most days. In many homes, mine included, there is no end to what could be done. There is always cleaning, organizing, meal prep—there is no point at which everything is finished and I look around bored, wondering what to do. (Perhaps this changes when all the kids are independent? I’ll let you know when I get there.) Thanks to Kristen, I forced myself to reevaluate what absolutely had to be done, and what could wait for 30 more minutes while I grabbed a book and took a break.

I’m so glad I did. I reconnected with some old friends, including tracking down a book that made its mark when I was young, but I had nothing more to go on than “I think it’s about the world ending or something…there’s a boy in it, unless it was maybe a girl…at one point he (or maybe she) sees a cow.” The internet really can be a useful tool.

I also made some new friends, including a lovely and horrifying little graphic novel that I thought would be for kids but definitely is not. I’m currently in the middle of The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell, a book that’s been on my wish list for years and I’m finally making time to read. (Russell is the keynote speaker at the conference Kristen and I will be speaking at in November.) So far it is engrossing, and I find myself mulling over its mysteries at all times of the day—nothing makes my brain happier.

From Kristen: Yes! I love that feeling when a book really consumes me, even when I am not reading it.

As I was laying down this challenge, I knew I was doomed to fail. I returned to teaching in the first week of August, and I began two summer graduate courses. I did not have nearly as much free reading time as I had in July. That was partly why I wanted to take on this challenge.  I wanted to push myself to read. It was more of a struggle than I expected, though. Like Mary, I REALLY had to work at carving out any time for reading (that wasn’t for my coursework. I read hundreds of journal articles this past month!) Beyond that, though, I realize now that I also just frittered away good hours of reading time mindlessly scrolling through screens.

Still, I did have a summer romance with books. I made regular trips to my local library. It is such a beautiful space, staffed by delightful women–many of whom I know, because it is a small town–and it is a real treasure trove of resources. To preprare for this coming school year, I reread many of my favorite children’s books, and over all, they stand up to the test of time. I am especially smitten with Pippi Longstocking. I’ve been reading the book to my preschool class. Their obvious delight with the ridiculous adventures of the young Swedish orphan makes me love the book even more.

I had a quick little fling with an old flame, Stephen King. When my daughter was born, my long-time love affair with Stephen King soured. I simply didn’t get the same thrill from being scared anymore. Being a first-time parent was terrifying enough. About ten years ago, I started reading King’s writings about baseball, and on the craft of writing, and other non-scary subjects. Mary loves horror stories, and talking about that with her rekindled an old passion. Coincidentally, a friend gifted a group of us Library Book Sale copies of Richard Bachman’s (Stephen King) Thinner to read for our poorly organized (but the snacks cannot be beat!) “Book Club.” What a great romp that book was!

I have several other books started, but not yet finished. I have piles of books all over the house that I haven’t yet begun. The month is over, and I am disappointed in myself. I am disheartened by my time-and-brain-sucking screen habit. I want to do something about that.

On a bright note, though, I remembered how much I love talking about books with people. So, I want to keep reading, just so I can talk to Mary about what I’ve read.



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