Monday, August 9, 2010

bathtubs and books

As I’ve mentioned before, it always surprises a bit me to hear that people don’t love to read – much the same, I’m sure, as it surprises some people that I don’t love to have athletic equipment lobbed at my head… Anyway, reading is so…therapeutic, lovely, and addicting. It is, I daresay, one of the only intelligent forms of escapism there is. I personally experience the reading of a good book much the same as I experience an anticipated hot bath: I don’t just stare at or skim the surface, I get right in – submerging up to my shoulders, to my neck, to my earlobes in the warm comfortable escape I find there. I stay awhile. I bring wine. I prefer if you leave me alone. Really, books and bathtubs have a lot in common.

I picked up Catcher in the Rye at the bookstore the other day. I didn’t mean to pick it up, I just did. It was there on the shelf and it was there under my arm and I don’t really remember the moment between those two memories. I’ve heard certain musicians say that they didn’t write the song but rather the song found them, and I often feel the same way about books: like I’ve been chosen, instead of the other way around. I don’t know if I will feel this way about Catcher, but I will certainly let you know when I’m finished. 

There are three books I am currently working on; four if you count Anna Karenina, the book I have been reading for over six years*. The first book in the group of three is A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Iriving, a novel I picked up at our inter-office used-book sale awhile ago. I noticed the title almost immediately amidst the piles of boxes of books, and it took me walking by it about five times before I realized why it already felt so oddly familiar, like it was staring at me: this is the book that the movie Simon Birch is based on. And if you haven’t seen Simon Birch, you’ve obviously never cried your eyes out quite as hard as I have (warning: overstatement). I’ve made it about halfway through the book and I’m already starting to get nervous because I know the sad part is coming. I have vowed to read the rest of it in the solitude of my own home, to save the rest of you from the awkward moment that will surely arise if I’m sobbing openly in the corner of a public venue.

Book two is a book by the handsome (irrelevant fact) & fantastically relate-able Donald Miller; called Searching for God Knows What. Don writes a lot from personal experience, so it’s a totally different style of book from Owen, and I am liking the switch between the two. This book in particular was gifted to me by a delightful woman I know who is well tuned in to the needs of others. You may have noticed my blog lately has been a little…uh…shall we say, honest? You could even say I’ve seemed desperately unable to deal with the things of life; yes, that sounds about right (and if you’d seen me in real life, you’d know for sure that I was recently one hair’s breadth away from institutionalization). There have been a few things in the past weeks that have come to my rescue, though. This book – and the gifting of it – have been small but important pieces of that saving. I wrote a wee memo in my phone the day I started it that went a little something like this: why do I get the distinct feeling this book is going to save my life? Not the book, but the words inside it. Not the author who wrote the words, and not the words themselves, but the recognition of myself I will find within them. So far, it’s been a very well-timed read, and indeed I’ve seen myself jumping back out at me from what I’ve been reading, on more than one occasion. I even gasped, laughed, and cheered (quietly) out loud at one point – when I was reading Don’s thoughts on Jesus – because I so whole-heartedly and giddy-like-a-schoolgirl agreed with what he was saying. It’s good to read a book like this once in awhile; if no one else in your world understands you, some author who wrote some book might. It feels a little like camaraderie, and I am currently pretending that it is.
The third book I’m reading is that sneaky little bugger, Catcher in the Rye. I started reading it the day I bought it because I had time to kill and the only other book I had with me was Owen Meany and I was in public and the sad part is coming; enough said. It took at least two pages before I really started to understand Holden(the main character)’s thought patterns, but as soon as I did I actually found myself giggling. It’s quite funny. I hadn’t a hot clue what this book was about before I started it – save the fact that it’s a Very Famous Book – and I still don’t know what to expect at all. But I’m excited to read it all the same; this kid is moody and hilarious and I am so excited to see what sort of crap he gets himself into. Don’t tell me anything –you’ll ruin it and I will hate you (at least for a little bit).

Book reviews to come as I finish.

Tell me, which book(s) do you consider a MUST READ? Do you have a list? What tops it? Why?

*yes, six years…and yes, it is that exhausting of a read; delightful in parts, but so very long and belaboured with details for the rest of it. Plus I already know how it ends. That's what happens when you take six years to read a Famous Book, you eventually stumble across pop culture and learn that everyone else knows how it ends and expects you to know it too and so they tell you and then you've spent all that time reading a book to get to the ending and in a way you've already gotten there vicariously through others, so it gets very boring, very fast. Hence the reason I am only two or three chapters from the end and I can't make myself pick it up to finish it. 


Elise said...

The Blue Castle - LM Montgomery
Wings - Julie Gonzalez
At the Back of the North Wind - George MacDonald
Screwtape Letters - CS Lewis
East of Eden - Steinbeck
A Confederacy of Dunces - (too far away for me to read the name... but it won a significant prize. AFTER the author died. Published after he died too. By his mother.)
Pride and Prejudice - Austen
Our Lady of the Lost and Found - Diane something. Also a prize winner.

AND!!! seriously, who ASKS for a list like that. They are all must reads for different reasons. So I suggest you read them and find out. It's a long list.

Have you ever tried to calculate ow many books you've read in your life??? In the past day I've read A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, The Giver, and a Judy Blume book. I think I read too fast.

Um, bed now.

anita said...

Wait - since when is Donald Miller being handsome an irrelevant fact?!
Uh... never?

Sharelle said...

oh gagnon.

I am so, so glad to hear that you reading Catcher.

The very minute you finish that thing, I want to discuss with you. I mean I'd like to right now too, but I don't want to ruin anything.

That book is in my top #5. I can't even exactly say why. I think it's just Holden. He just KILLS me (wink).

I'm serious - text me at least. I am looking forward to that chat. I read that book in 2 days - love.

ahaak said...

I don't believe that I could ever be audacious enough to give a list of must-reads; moreover, I haven't read enough to have an educated opinion!

Yet, I have found in my experience that there are the times when a book is read at a critical juncture, a season when the wisdom of that author seems to be speaking directly into your current situation. It seems these books maintain a mystical quality that enable them to transcend those moments so that I am able to return to them and find them still revitalizing. Those are the special moments that have influenced my list :)

Mere Christianity / Screwtape Letters (CS Lewis)
Lament for a Son (Nicholas Wolterstorff)
The Wounded Healer (Henri Nouwen)

- A

Mama said...

I adore your writing, I feel like you're inside my head. Could it be because I'm your Mother? I love this.
I wrote down the Donald Miller book. I have a feeling I really need it.
My all time favorite book so far is:

This Present Darkness by Frank E. Peretti

I read it many years ago and I felt like I completely lived inside this book and sometimes couldn't remain sitting while I read it, I felt like I had to stand up. I was even deeply disappointed when I finished it. I want to read it again to see if it has the same impact.

I've read books lately that have been raved about by others that I wasn't all that impressed with:

Handle With Care and
My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult, in that order.

I had to make myself continue with the second one because it was essentially the same story and characters as the first only with different names. I know this was supposed to be a list of recommended books but I wanted to mention these because she is such a popular author. I had to take a break from her and will try another one of her books later.

Another book I enjoyed was:

The Shack by Wm. Paul Young

This book has amazing insights about God that we could all apply to our lives.