“How can you read more after reading all day for your project?” he asks, standing in the doorway of the bedroom. I’m in bed, under the covers, a glass of red wine and a plastic bowl of Cheez-Its on the nightstand, a book propped open on my lap.Brad’s right. I am reading constantly these days, three or four or more books every week, titles like The Eagle and the Dove, A Study in Contrasts: St. Teresa of Avila and St. Therese of Lisieux and Birgitta of Sweden: Life and Selected Revelations – research for the 50 Women project.
I can’t ease up, even for a day. When I signed the book contract, the first thing I did was grab the calendar and plot out exactly how many profiles I needed to write each week to meet my June 1 deadline. It came out to 1.5 – but realistically it’s two, 2,000-word profiles each week if I want to allow time for proper editing at the end, and if I want to take that family vacation in December and not haul my laptop and eight library books to the beach with me.
Suffice to say, I am reading. A lot. Skimming, really. I don’t have the time to read three or four books cover-to-cover per woman. So I skim. The words feel like they're piling up in my head and spilling out my ears.
One would think, in light of all this reading, that the last thing I’d want to do before bed is read some more. But reading has always been my favorite pastime, my escape, the way my brain relaxes. Some people watch TV or play computer games or bake cookies from scratch. I read.
As a kid I took The Secret Garden and The Island of the Blue Dolphins into the apple tree in my backyard. I settled in a gnarled crook between two lumpy limbs with a book in one hand and a half-dozen Keebler chocolate-covered grahams in the other, the sweet scent of apple blossoms hanging like a veil around me. I read constantly as a kid. I was never without a book.
And so now, even though I’m up to my eyebrows in research reading, I still read a few pages (or chapters) for pleasure before bed every night. That said, I am pretty choosy about what I’m reading for fun. It can’t be too intellectually taxing (The Brothers Karamazov, for example, is not an option...probably ever -- this, by the way, is one of Brad's favorite books, along with Moby Dick. Enough said.), yet the books also need to be well-written, because I am, and always will be, a book snob.I’m gravitating toward memoir (shocking, I know) and personal essay. I just finished Wild by Cheryl Strayed, which I loved, and I re-read Katrina Kenison’s The Gift of an Ordinary Day, a beautiful, lyrical memoir about transition, motherhood and learning to live toward quiet.
Now I’m reading one of Katrina’s favorite writers, Dani Shapiro – I picked up her memoir Devotion from the library, and I’m hooked. I’m also reading Cold Tangerines, by Shauna Niequest, who is a beautiful writer with an authentic voice and a gift for description. And then there's the book of poems by Wendell Berry in the stack, but I haven't cracked it open yet. I don't typically read poetry. I'm a little scared (yes, I do have two degrees in English, and I'm still scared of poetry). And I've been visiting this blog, because it relaxes me (you'll see what I mean).
Reading quiet, deliberate, thoughtful prose gives me a place to rest in beauty and peace, even after – or maybe I should say especially after – a day soaked in words.
So tell me, what's on your nightstand right now? Got any good recommendations?Click here to get Graceful in your email in-box. Click here to "like" my Facebook Writer page. Thank you!