Thursday, February 26, 2009


Books I recently browsed, scouted for future reading, and returned to the library. I will likely, eventually, read all four in that stack of novels by Pym and Taylor.

I'm always reading something. Lately, as the melancholy that's plagued me off and on in recent months seems to have mostly dissipated, and I'm starting to feel back on my feet again, I'm not so much willing myself to do the things that make my days nice as I am eager to get at them.

Reading is one of these hobbies. I love books, and I'm always reading something, whether melancholy hangs round or not, but, recently, I've noticed that I seem to have made my way back to the reading rhythms and habits I have always enjoyed.

I tend to usually have four main types of reading going at once:

1. Some kind of journal, diary, or narrative of a person's life or experience.

Currently, the book of this sort that I'm reading is The Magic Apple Tree: A Country Year by Susan Hill (a book that was recommended to me in the comments on my blog many months ago). I truly love this book as it stirs something deep within me. I so warmly relate to the way the author thinks and feels about her country life, solitude, community, nature, making a home, and pretty much everything else, that this feels like my book. The author describes her country life with charm and appeal, but she doesn't oversentimentalize it. The book is cosy and cheering, but it is also honest about the fact that country living presents challenges that not everyone would want to embrace. I am taking my time reading The Magic Apple Tree so that I can enjoy each line because the writing, as well as the sentiments, are lovely. This one will be read many times over, I'm sure.

2. A book of fiction.

Currently, the one I'm reading is Alice in Wonderland, which I fell asleep with last night. I awoke at 4 a.m., with my glasses crushed beneath me (all of my reading glasses are bent and sit quite crookedly on my nose-- usually tipping way up to the left-- because I have fallen asleep wearing them) and my book placed carefully to the side of the bed. Alice in Wonderland is a book my son has wanted me to read since he was a boy, and being a bad mother, I haven't. So he gave it to me for Christmas. Now, I'm reading Alice (and, finally, I'm making steady progress) and very much enjoying it.

During busy times or times when things are "off," I tend to set aside my fiction reading because I have not yet mastered myself well enough to know when to put a book down. I obsess with fiction once I get going! (I won't talk about the time I read Jane Eyre and neglected my children and made them fix cereal and toast for themselves all day long... but they did live, and they don't seem to be the worse for it.)

In the fiction stack to be read soon: Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell, Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte, The Brothers Karamazov (finally), and either a novel by Barbara Pym or Elizabeth Taylor.

3. A non-fiction book, usually informational.

The book in this category that I'm reading now is Living More With Less by Doris Janzen Longacre. I've read through this book countless times. It's one of those that challenges me to rethink the daily habits I've gotten into and to evaluate where I am in a quest for living simply and with compassion. (I seem to be on a steep and endless uphill climb with this-- or I'm going in circles-- but I'm not discouraged. I've definitely made progress, and the point is to keep walking and to enjoy the hike.) Making a conscious effort to systematically work through this process of self-evaluation is good for me.

4. Whatever strikes my fancy.

Books I read at whim or browse just because. The stacks of books on my bedside table, on the tables beside my chairs, on the floor, on shelves and tables everywhere, simply make me happy. One book lying somewhere is nice, but a stack of books is brilliant! These are the books that suit my current needs or fancy, the ones that are there to satisfy my curiosity about something, the books that are there to tell me something or to answer my questions. These are ever-shifting, ever-changing piles of books. Some are read in snatches, some are merely browsed, some are read back to front or every which way, and some are eventually read through, which moves them to Category 3 in this list (above).

These are books of essays, fiction, information, art, architecture, beauty and inspiration, poems (I want to read more poems), and interest. They are cookbooks, gardening books, housekeeping books, simple living books. Books on hiking and nature and weather and geology and trivia of all kinds.

Magazines fit into these stacks, too. The ones that currently tempt me (because I've narrowed down and simplified my magazine reading for now) are Outside magazine (great writing, and I like outdoorsy stuff), Saveur (also good writing, about cooking authentic cuisines from around the world), and the British Country Living (I don't much care for most American home magazines, but I really do love this one. It's just that I can rarely get my hands on a copy...).

These ubiquitous stacks of books can be a distraction (a delightful one) from my other reading if I let them, and this is one of my new aims-- not to let them... not too much, that is, because they're a whole lot of fun!