I love reading.
When I was younger, I was quite the voracious reader. I would carry a book around with me, read it while I was walking, read during classes when I was supposed to be paying attention, read late into the night.
I remember the first “grown up” book I read. Charlotte’s Web. I was so tickled that I had read a book with CHAPTERS. I think I was in the first grade. I used to read after I was supposed to be asleep. I would leave the hall light on, with my door open, and read by the light of the hallway. then after my mother caught on and would turn the light off, I would use a flashlight and read under my covers. (Gee. I wonder why my eyes are so nearsighted. Hmmmm.)
I still read pretty hungrily post-college, but I didn’t readily seek out new books. I’ve always had lots of “favorite” books that I read and re-read, over and over again. An old, beloved book is like an old friend that you sit down and catch up with after a few years. I’m especially partial to children’s and young adult literature – maybe it is because those are the books I first fell in love with. Some books on my shelves I have more than one copy. I’ll not be able to find the book I MUST read right then, go buy it, read it, and then find my original copy a month later (Where the Red Fern Grows). Some I will read until it falls apart, and buy a new copy but can’t bring myself to throw away the old one. Some I have bought at used book stores even though I already have it, because it has the older cover that I grew up with (The President’s Daughter). Some I buy to give away and then never get around to it, or end up with them back in my possession somehow (copies of LLoyd Alexander’s Book of Three books, signed “To Susan” by the author). (*cough* Um, Susan, if you want these…. uhhh.. I’ve got them. )
With kids now in my life, reading has become more difficult to do, and when I want to settle down with a book, I find myself reaching for an old broken down paperback more often than not, partly because I know if I don’t get back to it, it’s ok, because I have already read it (a million times).
I’ve been trying to do a bit better though, and have partially succeeded.
Some of my recent reads:
Better Off : Flipping the Switch on Technology, by Eric Brende
Very interesting book. I picked it up by chance at Borders, thinking that maybe it was the book that Loobylu had mentioned on her website, about the family trying to live self sufficiently for 6 months. THAT book is actually called, “Living the Good Life” and I still need to read it. Better Off, is about a couple who lives in an amish/menonite community with no electricty for 18 months. (Yes, I know those books are really very different, but the memory of the original book was blurry in my mind, ok?)
The book really struck me, the author’s main thesis is that society is better off (“Better Off” get it? huh? huh?) without modern technology. Some of my attempts at discussing the book met with blank stares and immediate defensiveness, “technology is WONDERFULWHEREWOULDWEBEWITHOUTIT!” but sometimes people kind of “got it” immediately and happy conversations then ensued about how we live in a society where it is almost like an endless cycle where you must work in order to afford the mortgage, and you have to own a car in order to get to the job, and you have to get a better job, further away in order to afford the car…. our own materialism drives us in this society into always spending the same as our income. Our income can shift up and down and yet our spending will always manage to match it.
This is not what the book is about, but my own frustrations lately about life and the way society kind of forces us to live (“forces us”? yeah, i’m stabbing myself in the foot with that one). I have been thinking about my childhood and how I spent my time growing up, and comparing it to my kids and how different it will be for them. Will it be better? How? And what specifically will MAKE it better? Will it be worse? What will be the aspects of their childhood that will be “worse” and why?
I always come back to the same sort of conclusions, and they revolve around nature, and time spent in play. I grew up with a creek in the woods in my backyard. The world was as big as I could pedal on my bike, and as magical as I could imagine up with my noggin. Don’t get me wrong, I watched plenty of TV as well, my favorite movies were Superman, Star Wars, and The Last Unicorn. I wanted to marry superman and have superbabies. Until of course I decided Luke Skywalker was the man for me and Leia could just push off. Then I wanted to be a unicorn turned into a girl and sing a song about “now that I’m a WOOOOMAAAAAAAAN.. EVERYTHING IS CHANGED….”
Ahem. I digress. I’m not saying I was raised in an ultra hippy no TV granola land, but nature was a big part of my playtime outdoors. I think about my kids’ well regulated days at their daycare. They arrive around 8am, I pick them up at 5pm.* We get home, we have some dinner, we play with toys, we play outside, they go to bed about 7.30pm. I know they’ll be out and about when they are older, but out and about to where? Our backyard is a postage stamp (which was a PRO, when we were considering our neighborhood, whereas now…..not so much) and the woods that were off the block behind us was torn down last year to make a Minnieland (daycare). I spend time wishing that we lived closer to our respective workplaces, so that we would have more time with our kids, and them just more time at home in general. I hate that they spend more waking hours at school than at home. Some technology definitely improves our quality of life, and I’m not saying I want to do away with that. I think that there should be a better balance between quality of life, materialism, and wants vs. needs.
Anyway, this turned into a lot more of a spiel than I really meant to say, but I could go on even more (and will do so at great length enthusiastically, if you bring it up).. There are a lot of aspects of our society that I don’t like. Even as I hypocritically participate in them, so yes, feel free to point many fingers at me while you throw some stones, because I probably deserve it.
* Don’t get me wrong, Ethan and Jocelyn’s school is wonderful, with the largest playground I have ever seen in a “daycare.” We have been so impressed with the school that we will probably keep the kids there for their private kindergarten and first grade (how can we not, with TEN KIDS per teacher!)
What was I talking about again? Oh yes. While I DON’T really wish to go live with the Amish, I thought it was a refreshing read, though a little one sided. I think it worked for him and his wife because of the ills they see in society, and they saw this time as an experiment, nothing that they wanted to do permanently.
I call it one-sided, because the whole thesis of the book is that technology not only does not equate happiness and quality of life, and even argues that more technology can equate to unhappiness and lower quality of life (see: cars/ mortgage/ job/ endless spiral). Obviously, not everyone wants to go out and farm the land with no electricity, so it is one sided in that if you took someone else and had them perform the same ‘experiment’ it would be very different, but it was an interesting look into life without technology, and I could not put it down, I was fascinated, both by the descriptions of everyday life itself, as well as his take on the people, community and beliefs.
The book got me interested in reading about the “Plain People,” as the various orders of Amish and Menonite people are called, and I checked “Crossing Over: One Woman’s Escape from Amish Life” by Ruth Irene Garrett & Rick Farant out of the library. The title pretty much says it all. It did not go into much of everyday life, but the very personal story of how Ruth left her family and Amish community and entered “English” (read: American. what we see as Normal.) life and married her non-Amish husband. While interesting, it seemed a bit one sided and left me wanting a more general book on these people.
Another book I have picked up, and am still reading, is “The Almond: The Sexual Awakening of a Muslim Woman” by Nedjma. I picked it up for the sexy cover, and so far, it’s OK. Honestly, a bit disappointing, as there is nothing to really make my blood run hot (hello, which is why I bought it!) and the storyline is ho-hum.
I’m also reading an old beat up paperback by one of my all time favorite authors, Lucy Maud Montgomery, of Anne of Green Gables fame. It is a short novel called, “Kilmeny of the Orchard,” and if you know L.M. Montgomery, then you are already of the race that knows Joseph, and need not be informed of anything further, other than to read it, if you have not already If you are NOT familiar with this dear author, then it wouldn’t be a bad one to start with, as it is very short/ easy to get through, and will give you a good idea of her style. My favorites of hers are the Emily books, Jane of Lantern Hill, and The Blue Castle. And the Anne books (I’d be shot by all L.M. Montgomery fans on sight if I leave that out, but I like to think it’s a given.)
Books on my (albeit virtual) TO-READ stack:
Under the Banner of Heaven : A Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakauer
No Man Knows My History : The Life of Joseph Smith
by Fawn M. Brodie
Early Mormonism and the Magic World View
by D. Michael Quinn
Memoirs of a Geisha
Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
by Ann Brashares
I’d love to hear any recommendations to toss on the virtual pile.
And while I’ve been trying to read more, I’ve also (ALWAYS) been keeping up with my myriad of blogs. So many good writers out there in blog-world, it often makes me think, “what am i doing writing here, anyway?” but what can you do.
I read a lot of well written blogs, a lot of them mommy/daddy bloggers, but lately the blog that I’ve particular been digging is “Granny got a Vibrator” because while I love a good toddler poop story just as much as the next person, Liz always manages to make me think and question, and that is always good. I hope you’ll check her out.
- amy needs a little help from her friends.