recent reading

I'm catching my breath between three fabulous days at Brookstone School in Columbus, Georgia (where I was lucky enough to see every student in grades preK through 5, work with a lovely smattering of students in middle school writing workshops, and even an Honors English class for a fascinating hour) , and my trip to the D.C. area on Monday, where I'll work with all fourth graders and teachers at The Potomac School as they create characters with me. I'm looking forward to it.

In the meantime, I'm staring at the wall and gathering some energy back to me. I'm knitting. I'm eating good food. I'm sleeping like the dead. I'm listening to Jim's amazing new music -- he's composing like a fiend on fire right now -- and I'm catching up on all manner of things, including reading.

I've started reading again, really reading, which must mean I'm getting set to start writing in earnest again, day after day, which is true, I am. But I have not read like this in years... it means something. I'm trying to figure out what. Remember when you used to read so much you couldn't put down your book to even come to the table for supper? You brought your book to supper. You had to put it down in order to eat. It was torture. Like that. Reading like that.

You can see what I'm currently reading in the blog sidebar, and you can see my 2011 reading list here. I started this reading and listing only a few months ago. It's changing me, making new inroads in my mind and heart, and it delights me more than I can say.

Quick notes: Loving Pulphead, just started it today and already am hooked. I opened it at random and read the piece on Michael Jackson. Well-written, thoughtful, compassionate, provocative. I buy a book a month from a favorite indie, Turnrow Books in Greenwood, Mississippi (where book 2 of the sixties trilogy takes place) and this is November's selection. Thank you, thank you!

I'm listening to Middlesex on CDs from my library, which is how I read both Kate Atkinson novels. Henrietta Lacks I read on hardcover loan from my library, which is how I started Fire and Rain, but I've now purchased this book for a friend, and am listening to it on CD, also on loan from my library.

Libraries and independent bookstores: great good things in the world. As are books. As are schools. As are a few days off. It's really fall here now, and it's beautiful. I am being spoiled these few days home: Jim makes me a fire every morning. I sit in the pink chair next to the fire, with my quilts and my coffee and a story. Maybe a little knitting. Maybe a little cooking. Maybe a bath later and a little more Middlesex while I soak.

There's business to attend to and I'm doing that as well. There are chores to do and I'm doing them as well, but there's nothing like finding my way back to the pink chair and the book in progress and the reward of the next chapter.

I crave good stories right now. Non-fiction, memoir, essay, fiction, it doesn't matter, as you can see. They feed me.

I crave the sound of stories, the heft of the book in my hand, the turn of the page near the fire, the reading of a passage out loud over supper, the amazement of what happens next, and the constant wonder of how an accomplished writer can gather a gaggle of seemingly unconnected words, add moments and memory into the mix, infuse the mix with meaning, and construct a glorious castle of story, a story I never would have known if I had not opened that book, been introduced to it through someone else's recommendation (Thank you, UES in Moorestown, NJ, for the Middlesex recommend! Thank you, Cousin Carol for our Masterpiece Mystery nights that led me to Kate Atkinson!) or stumbled across it in the stacks (which look suspiciously like my Google Reader these days) on my own.

I think this is what's happening: I'm settled enough in my life, finally, to welcome back story. I'm off the roller coaster. I've stepped out of the first car and I've got my feet under me, solid, steady, grounded again. I know who I am.

Suddenly I always have an audio book for the car, an audio book for the bath, and a stack of bedtime reading, fireside reading, reading in between the cracks, or late into the night. I soak up good writing like a sponge. I need it like I need water, food, sleep, coffee... chocolate. hee.

Reading is sustenance. It calls to me. It says, "Come spend some time with good writing, with good story, with thoughts you never had, people you have yet to meet, and places your heart has not yet visited. Come be filled."

So that's what I'm up to this fall, in addition to the travel and teaching and speaking and all the good work in schools and at conferences. It's a bit like being reshaped, reborn, retooled. It's like being opened up again to the world and its mysteries. It's becoming larger than myself.

And so, y'all.... got any recommends? I've had these white-heat reading times in my life before -- they turned me into a writer. I want to be a better writer. I'm making a list of Good Books. I'm holding on to this white-heat feeling as long as I can. Maybe it will last forever.


  1. I'm reading The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester which a teacher recommended to me. It's about two of the men behind the Oxford English Dictionary. Very well written--obviously by someone who loves words.

    Thanks for your lists! I love the image of your chair and the fire...

  2. I definitely want to read this, Cindy. Thanks. I've also got Longitude here to read at some point... all these books about all those guys long ago and all that rich stuff they did. le sigh. Somewhere in there I want to read about the women, too. :> xo


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