On Reading

Recently, I’m in a rut. I can’t find a book to read where I make it further beyond 30 pages before giving up. I hate to review an unread book, as if I skinnied out of a boring read. But it’s true. Seems every book I check out on my iPad, is an endless disinteresting tale that provides tmi before the plot unfolds. (“The Girl on the Train” comes to mind.)

it’s already mid-January, and I haven’t read a good book from cover to cover since the summer. The last one I finished was “Inside the O’Briens” by Lisa Genova. She’s of “Still Alice” fame, the book about a college professor who develops early onstage Alzheimer’s in her 50’s. Ms. Genova writes and researches her medical related books well. This I know because illnesses are one of my favorite topics to read about. Jodi Picoult also writes about pediatric heart disease, brittle bone disease, as does Elizabeth Berg, once an oncology nurse, who has used traumatic brain disease as a topic. But right now, I’m all caught up with those authors’ newest hits.

I too am writing a novel about a disease, so it’s important for me to read other’s attempts of the same thing. Another genre I enjoy reading about, as a pet care provider, is the recent boom in books about dogs. My recent fave was “A Dog’s Purpose”, where the narrator is a feral canine who wonders his raison d’etre. “Texts from Dogs” is a nice boost of levity. Since my novel is also about a Marine Corps officer, I’ve had to read military novels, watch military movies and read articles about PTSD. But I enjoyed everything I read, even if I was in tears for the duration. Most of my books centered around the Iraq-Afghanistan conflict written by soldiers who experienced it. “Spartan” I didn’t finish, as yet, but I own the book and can return any time. It’s well written and of continued interest to me. Mid-summer I read “We Were Liars” in 24 hours flat. It reminded me of John Cheever’s novels who typically wrote about the upper crust of society and their secrets, ills and unhappiness that having money often brings. Often, going on trips is the only time I can do any heavy reading, because my days are busy with physical activities, social activities, writing, and, reading at night puts me to sleep. I’ve found some back issues of “The New Yorker”, where I’m pet sitting, so I’ve been reading them. The U.S. alien invasion seems to be the topic of many articles, although sometimes there is a report on drugs for up and coming absurd diseases, or drug research and how pharmaceuticals overcharge the public consumer for use.

So why is my reading frenzy in starvation mode? Maybe I should reserve two hours a day for reading, just like homework if I were in school. I know I should finish my novel!!! That way, I could read without the proverbial ball and chain of writing hanging over my head. I don’t have writers’ block, in fact, I have writer’s diarrhea when I’m in front of my book, but if this house had Internet I would be writing right now. Two more weeks until I’m home and Internet access is a given. Thank heavens.

Always a multi tasker in my jobs, I guess my brain cannot stop swirling long enough to concentrate. With two 5 month old puppies at home, there is always chaos. Puppy tussling, eating of door frames, tree roots and stones needing removal from puppy mouths. Puppy hugging, little paws putter pattering across wood floors. Obedience training starting. My husband thinks that having purchased the puppies was enough of an effort, and thus does not puppy watch as well as he should, even though I’m cat sitting right now at someone else’s home for a month. I no longer work out on an elliptical, so there is no evening treadmilling with a book positioned in front of me.

Before online reading, I loved to buy books. I loved the smell inside the cover, the whole of the book open to delighted digestion, and if a cherished read, the true love I felt at owning that book, not having to return it to a library. Sometimes I’d get the movie of the book if there was one, or pass it on to a friend. But, after losing many beloved books that way, I stopped. I simply would switch to physically passing the book on to virtually recommending it. Mine forever, my heart would taunt and tease me to hurry through the pages. You don’t get that feeling from a 3M system that gives you a horizontal or vertical read. Yes, there are bookmarks you can use so you don’t lose your place, and a page count at the bottom of the screen which informs you of how many pages you’ve read thus far. And, for writers like me, the app Goodreads. The last book I bought was “Sparta”, a large beach book, I’d decided, and I’m still, one year later, only in the first hundred pages. Three years ago I was given a college scholarship to get my BA in Creative Writing. It was to be a 15 year venture. i can’t help but wonder if I’d have had a reading problem then?

I love Goodreads! I love to study plots and character development and see how well, or poorly, other authors write them. I love to read other’s reviews of books I’ve yet to select, mainly to see if they’re pages are worth turning, or to find another to my liking. Like Spoilers for TV or movies. Recently, I was passed a virtual book by an up and coming new author who liked my style of review who asked me to do the same for her book. What a treat! But by being such a slow reader, I am not a top reviewer on Goodreads, much to my dismay. Others read a book a day, a book every 72 hours, or two books a week. My competitive edge cannot keep up!

Whatever the reason, I feel a bit adrift in a world paved with books where my drive is shrinking and my mind closing up. For a writer, that’s not something to be proud of. Besides, I thought when I retired, I’d get to read nonstop. Not so. Maybe in heaven? One can hope. Meantime, there are many miles to go before eternal sleep. And I plan to make the best of them whether it’s reading, writing, traveling, or raising pups.


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