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.