Sunday, May 29, 2011

Reading Old Friends

Every summer I make lofty reading goals for myself. I intend to use hot summer days and muggy summer evenings to devour books, some of which have been sitting on my shelf ignored for years. I never meet my goals. My job demands far too much of my time, especially in the summer, so many books continue living their lonely lives on my dusty bookshelves.

But, I feel the need to make a list and set some goals anyway. Every now and then I come across an old reading list and I smile. There was the summer I planned on reading all of the Harry Potters and most of Shakespeare's plays. Yes, in the same summer. For the record--I read none of either.

My list for the summer of 2011...

  1. Les Miserables, Victor Hugo: Finish! I have 300 or so pages left to read and seem unable to power through to the end. I absolutely refuse to start another book without finishing this one!
  2. ...And Ladies of the Club, Helen Hooven Santmyer:  One of my absolute favorite books. Chock full of wonderful characters and a beautiful story. I try to read it every summer; I didn't read it last summer and I really missed it.
  3. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte: I've read it before but it's been years. I really want to revisit this old friend and see what I understand/notice this time around. I was in 6th grade the first time I read Jane--I expect the experience to be different now!
  4. Anne of Green Gables, Lucy Maud Montgomery: Or at least one of the books in the series. House of Dreams is one of my favorites, or Rilla of Ingleside. But I very well may go back to the beginning of Green Gables and reintroduce myself to all those old friends.
  5. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett: I've read this book before as well, but I was very young and didn't understand it. It seems like a marvelous story and I'd like to try reading it again. It's entirely probable that reading The Secret Garden will prompt me to read Burnett's other classic, A Little Princess, which I absolutely adore.
My list is short this year. I intend on reading a couple other small books for my students. I try to keep in touch with what they're reading (I draw the line at Diary of Wimpy Kid though, and Captain Underpants, or anything else that threatens my brain cells). I have a couple books for church/ministry work that I will read. I've also checked out a couple books from the library on fertility as part of the journey toward motherhood. But I want to keep my 'pleasure' reading list short. The books themselves are quite long. There's well over 2,000 pages of reading in just those five books--and Les Miserables is more than three-quarters completed! If it wasn't, the page count would almost double.

I've read Jane, Anne, and ...And Ladies, before. They are old friends. I know their plot twists, I know what to expect from them. And yet, every time I read them, I find something new, sometimes about the book but  usually about myself. Much like talking to a friend, especially an old friend.

There are probably 50 books on my shelves that I've never read. Books that I've bought or that have been given to me, books that seem interesting which is why I can't part with them. With books it seems as if I have to read them at just the right moment. ...And Ladies of the Club sat on my shelf for about four years before I finally read it. But it was my time to read it, I fell in love with it, and I wouldn't have if I'd read it before. Countless times I've picked up a book, read a few pages, a chapter or two, and just can't keep going. Then, months or years later I'll pick it up again and I can't put it down. It depends on where I am in life, with what I'm feeling, with what I need from a book. It seems that there's a time for Austen, and a time for Twain, and a time for Hemingway and a time for Lewis.

Only time will tell if I'll read any of the books on my list. If I never finish Les Miserables then it seems that I will never read again as I've vowed to not start another until it's done. Maybe an hour or two with the soundtrack will help motivate me to finish the book. In fact, four out of the five books I've chosen for this summer have been made into musicals. So you can guess what I'll be listening to this summer!

What are your summer reading goals? Are there any books that are just perfect for the beach? (I read Gone With the Wind on the beach when I was about 15 and I loved it!). Are there any books that you've read over and over? Try to find some time to sit outside, soaking up the summer sun and drinking in a good book. Happy reading!

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