I recently ordered a multitude of books from my school library’s fantastic Link + system (in which I select books online and they come to me from nearby universities with more extensive library systems). I wanted to read them for fun, because I always have to have something to read that doesn’t have to do with school. Since I’m an English major with an emphasis in literature, that gets difficult. Last quarter I was reading three novels a week—-including such titles as Cannery Row, The Joy Luck Club, The Color Purple, Tuck Everlasting, Holes, Treasure Island, Little Lord Fauntleroy and so on—-and for ten weeks, and I barely had time to stare at a non-class book for a few seconds before I turned my lamp off at night.
This quarter I have, much to my sorrow, no English classes. I’m taking a history course in which I get to read four books, among them E.B. Sledge’s With the Old Breed and Elie Wiesel’s Night, but aside from that, I am free to read whatever I please. So that is why I ordered books from Link +, books like Ordinary Wolves (which Barbara Kingsolver, author of The Poisonwood Bible, which I deeply enjoyed, gave a ravingly positive review) and Two Old Women and The Woman who Married A Bear and The Raven’s Gift. I picked up Ordinary Wolves, and was sure the writing was lovely, but put it down after twenty pages. I did the same with the rest of the books. I felt horrible each time I gave up on a story. I am a reader! I thought. I am not supposed to give up on a book. Not even if the only thing I read is the first page. There’s a silent rule that binds a reader to a book once her eyes grab the first word, and I was breaking that rule with abandon.
I walked past one of my bookshelves (even in our shack we have three different bookshelf areas) after breakfast one day, wondering what to read. I had to find something. I felt lost. And then an pumpkin-colored spine snagged my attention: a beautiful hardbound copy of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. I had read Little Women as a girl and loved it, but I realized that I have seen the Winona Ryder film version so many times that I barely remembered what actually happened in the piece of literature itself. I did remember the way Alcott’s words tugged me into a cozy world of charming but very human characters, so I opened the book to the first page and began to read.
I did not stop. The greatest delight of re-reading a book I read at a younger age is finding the humor and wisdom and nuances I missed at that earlier period in my life. Alcott’s Little Women might leave me even happier when I finish it at 21 years old than it did when I finished it at 11 years old, and that is fine with me.
This experience showed me that I do not have to feel guilty for giving up on one book or even five or six. Books speak to different people at different times in their lives, and Ordinary Wolves and its fated companions in my library book stack have to wait until the time is right for them. For now, the Marches capture my mind and give me an escape to Concord in the midst of my hectic last days of undergraduate school.
P.S. Though this is a blog about writing, reading and writing are best friends. I write about both. 🙂