In Defense of Reading

Jul 6, 2011

reading in the sunshine

I've had the first book in The Hunger Games trilogy sitting on my nightstand for six months. Both of my sisters told me that once I started I wouldn't be able to put it down.  I believed them and so I saved it, and then I think I just forgot about it.  I got used to seeing it there, unopened by my bed.

Feeling a little desperate for reading material, I grabbed it on my way to my daughter's swim meet yesterday.  In between races, she played with friends, and I read.  After the meet, my husband worked the early evening shift in our try-to-keep-the-two-year-old-in-bed night job, and I kept reading.  I'm an early-to-bed girl, but by 10:30 I was calculating the cost/benefit ratio of staying up to read till the end.

It took an act of will, but I eventually went to bed.  Instead, I let my kids watch two hours of cartoons after breakfast so I could finish.

It's been a while since I last fell head-over-heels into a great story.  It made me think about reading as a kid (the most perfect, magical books will always be the books we first loved) and all the reading I've done since.  A lifetime of words and stories.  A lifetime of living other lives, of seeing the world through other eyes.

Growing up in a family of six, I was the only reader.  These days my mother and sisters troll my shelves like the local library and even my Dad can't get enough of his Kindle, but, back then, I was the butt of many jokes. They couldn't really understand my insatiable appetite for books.

I think their favorite joke (at least, it's the one I remember hearing the most often) involved the fact that I read while at our Grandmother's west Texas farm.  Thinking about that farm, I remember jumping hay bales and making mud pies in the barn, but I've no doubt I plowed through quite a few books during those visits too.  My family loved to say, "Look at her! She'd rather read about a farm than enjoy one!"

I suppose there's some truth to what they said.  I could read about the hardships of Laura Ingalls' long winter again and again, but I'd never want to live them.  Still, I don't subscribe to the assumption implicit in this joke: that books give second-hand experience and thus lead to a second-hand, perhaps even a second-rate, life.

All this has recently come back to me because I've been reading my way through a stack of books on bee-keeping, chicken-raising, and other farm pursuits.  Lately, my small Florida vegetable patch has seemed like nowhere near enough, and I've been dreaming about raising (at least a little) of our own food.  I may be planted in the suburbs for now (no chicken coops allowed), but a girl can dream.

The Backyard Homestead Guide to Raising Farm Animals may be a far cry from The Hunger Games, but, today, I'm feeling a little sorry for all the non-readers out there.  Day-to-day, I may walk a fairly narrow path, but books like these have always set me in a wide-open place.  Here, there's adventure.  There’s heroism and triumph.  There are even a few bees and laying hens.  Just don't tell my community association.  I'm sure their bylaws wouldn't approve.


  1. Dana Oskins

    First of all I love the Hunger Games trilogy and second I also remember our times at Grandmother’s house and would now be one of those that would be going through your reading collection.

  2. Lisa Ulrich

    yay! so glad you got to finally read it! Fabulous story right there!

  3. Courtenay Bowser

    I can relate to this one on so many levels!!!


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