Tuesday, July 21, 2009

My Reading Record

The highlight of my summers has always been the chance to read – and read a lot. Growing up, I would go to the library every day. While I enjoyed the programs the library had to offer, I really loved the chance to peruse all of the books available. In college, summer meant I would finally have choice in my reading material after reading for courses all year.

As a teacher, my school year reading was usually in preparation for what my students would be reading. Summers were times for me to choose for ME. As I was reviewing summer reading lists this year, I thought back and tried to remember what books really stood out for me in my past summers. Then, after reading many blogs that listed the music people had listened to at five year intervals, I was inspired to choose specific points in my life and reminisce about what I was reading.

Age 5 – The Velveteen Rabbit
I never had a favorite blankie, nor was I a big fan of stuffed animals. However, this story of the stuffed rabbit that comes to life after being loved for so long touched me. As a youngster, I wondered what I could make come to life if I loved it. I loved and loved but none of my inanimate objects came to life. I used to imagine what they would do and say if they did come alive.

Age 10 – anything by Judy Blume
As a fourth grader, I loved that there was a book that I could relate to – Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. Peter’s annoyance with almost everything as well as being misunderstood by his family – those things mirrored my life! I made it my goal then to read all of Judy Blume’s books. I enjoyed reading her because she oftentimes touched on subjects many tweens are dealing with but not many people like to talk about – bullying, puberty, fitting in. I was tickled as an adult to learn that she also wrote for grown-ups. And yes, I have read all of Judy Blume’s books.

Age 15 – Flowers in the Attic
I wish I knew how I came to read V.C. Andrews. I am not sure I would have picked out Flowers in the Attic on my own. But I did choose it and chose to read it over and over. I read every book in that series. I read other series by the same author. I was fascinated and mystified. I imagined the characters – what they looked like, how they would sound. I tried to put myself in their situation. How would I react? Could I escape? I was thrilled when I found out the book had been made into a movie. I was rather disappointed by the film. The one I imagined was so much better!

Age 20 – Nonfiction
After my reading material was called “junk” by a friend, we spent several summers choosing books for each other to read. We were allowed to read one book of our choice, and then we had to follow up by reading a book selected by the other. My friend picked nonfiction titles for me to read most of that summer. By fall, I read four or five books on Kennedy’s assassination. I was vaguely interested in the topic when the summer started and pretty much an expert when summer was over!

Age 25 – Parenting books
I became a mom around this time. I read a lot to my daughter, and she adored that time. In fact, her first birthday cake was shaped like a book and its title was “The Story of Kelsey’s First Birthday.” I also started reading all kinds of parenting books as I wanted to learn every tip so I could give my daughter the best possible foundation. After watching a segment on Oprah, I went out and bought the book See Jane Win. The author followed hundreds of successful women and she identified the traits and experiences they all had in common. It was very thought-provoking and an interesting read. Now that my daughter is almost a tween, it is a text I should revisit.

Age 30 – Magazines
By now, I had two kids, a new career and another part-time job. I became increasingly frustrated that it took me months to finish a book. I couldn’t stay interested because I would forget too many details between readings. However, with magazines, I could finish reading an article in less than 5 minutes! While I loved to devour magazines like People and Us Weekly, I would also try to balance those with Time and Newsweek. We subscribe to a large number of magazines at our house – and I still get a little giddy when they come in the mail!

What will I be reading at 35? I can name a few things on my list, but we will have to wait and see. What have you read throughout your life? What made an impact on you? Enjoy your summer reading!


scottfilkins said...

These aren't all summer reading, but this was fun to reflect on nonetheless.
at 5: Something from Sweet Pickles...maybe No Kicks for Dog (Doubtful Dog doubts anything and everything, including himself.)
at 10: I recall reading and writing a book report on Have You Seen Hyacinth Macaw? after seeing it on ReadIt, that drawing show on PBS.
at 15: To put it as Kylene Beers does, I was aliterate except for school-required reading at this time.
at 20: I'd discovered Richard Powers and read several of his novels that summer.
at 25: I read or re-read all of Toni Morrison's novels for a summer course that year, so I'm pretty sure on this one. Enjoyed every page of it. Well, maybe not Jazz.
at 30: I think I can place Love in the Time of Cholera in this summer.
Predicting to summer of 35: the Bush and Cheney memoirs, for sure. Cough.

emaestra said...

At 5, I read books similar to the Bob Books. It seems the ones I read 35 years ago had the same character names, but the drawings are very different. I read these on my own because I didn't attend kindergarten. I worried everyone else would know how to read at the beginning of first grade. I left those chumps in the dust thanks to Bob. And Sesame Street.
At 10, I devoured Mrs. Piggle Wiggle and Pippi Longstocking. Everything by Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume. That summer I read everything that Erma Bombeck wrote. Odd, eh?
At 15, I read a lot of Stephen King. I read The Elephant Man and East of Eden. Both felt very deep, man. I also read a lot of Beatles and Pink Floyd, both of which might not be as deep as I thought they were. Or are they?
At 20, I read Anna Karenina. As they say, that was all she wrote. I was hooked on Russians as I started college in earnest. This was also the start of books I had to read and books I should read.
At 25, I, too, read many parenting books. Penelope Leach rocks. (I have just realized that I didn't read to my oldest much at all. She was a toddler when I had twins.) I did read Spock cover to cover. I also continued to read in college for an English major.
At 30, I was in my first year of teaching. I also divorced. Did I mention the toddler and twins? I read nothing. Except Confederacy of Dunces, which now seems somehow appropriate for that time of my life.
At 35, I read a lot of YA novels to try get hip with my students. No dice. They do remember me and my class, though. I also reread a lot of stuff I had read in college because I needed to teach it. And then I taught it. In teaching All Quiet on the Western Front, I read Johnny Got His Gun. I will buy this in any used book store even though I already own it. Lending copies.
At 40, I have decided that I want to read what I want to read. No longer the books I have to read, or the books I should read. I found a social network site with plenty of recommendations. Librarything.com is my home page, need I say more? I have read a lot of current books by using the library online reserve. I am amazed at the diversity and quality of literature available today. Wow. Lucky us.
Now I realize that I probably have written more than the original post. I'm okay with that - this was fun. Send. ;).

theteach said...

I smile at your memory. I no longer can remember what age I read what without some serious memory testing. :)

Your list reminds me of The Story's Story where the reader is asked to list 15 books in 15 minutes. Another fun exercise in recalling one's reading past.

Lisa Fink said...

Scott - I love that you mentioned rereading books! That is something I enjoy doing - going back to something I loved. Not everyone does it but it's why I can never get rid of any books.

emaestra - Your age 10 was very similar to the list I had to choose from. Beverly Cleary is still one of my favorite authors. My daughters sure are like Beezus and Ramona :) I will definitely check out the site you mentioned.

Nancy said...

I always enjoy the book lists of others. I too enjoy summer for time to read only what I want to read (although I long ago determined that I would not be deterred from pleasure reading during the school year.

Since I have about twice as many five-year intervals to cover than you, Lisa, I'll substitute a right-brained looser structure:

I had a best friend whose mother was my librarian. She recognized precocious readers and pointed us early toward Wizard of Oz, Little Women, Charlotte's Web, Island of the Blue Dolphins, and more.

I went through binges--famous nurses and women doctors in the middle elementary grades.

By fourth or fifth grade, I binged on biographies, my favorite on George Washington Carver.

Like my contemporaries, I went through my Nancy Drew phase, but in junior high, I still loved the classics--the bigger the better.

Emaestra, I also loved Johnny Got His Gun, which I read in high school (during the Vietnam War). My copy had the hand with the peace sign on the front, so when I re-read it, I was surprised to be reminded that it was an account of WWI. I too buy copies to share (but I think I still have my original copy with my maiden name written in the front).

Shamefaced, I'll admit that in my early married years, I went through the Danielle Steels--until I was into chapter 2 of a book before I realized I had already read it once.

I too can trace my personal life through my changing magazine subscriptions--from Good Housekeeping to Parents, finally now to Oxford American, New Yorker, and (of course) English Journal.

These days I read, as Dylan Thomas described,"indiscriminately and all the time, with my eyes hanging out." Well, maybe not indiscriminately. Life's too short and there are too many books I haven't read to waste my time on pulp.

Renee G said...

Wow. If I did this in five year increments, my comment would be pretty long. My parents were not readers, but my mother took us to the library every week and I was kind of on my own there.

At 5, I taught myself to read in a Kindergarten in which it was against the rules to teach children to read, because they were supposed to play, paint, and socialize. Boy, those were the days.

The earliest I can remember of a reading life was going through the Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew series, which must have been somewhere around 4th grade.

I had never heard of Charlotte's Web until my 7th grade teacher read it aloud to us. Now, it is on my list of favorite books of all time, and I've read it about fourteen times.

What stands out from my high school years are The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Macbeth, and The Octopus.

As a young adult, I read Anna Karenina, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Les Miserables, and yes, Johnny Got His Gun. I also *had* the black one with the red peace sign hand on the cover, but I lent it to my brother when he was in high school and he loaned it to someone else, and it apparently traveled around through the school and I never saw it again.

When I became pregnant I, too, read tons of parenting books and when I had children I spent most of my time reading what I call "trashy novels" which didn't require me to think.

At around 40, I wandered in Wallace Stegner territory and discovered Angle of Repose, one of my absolute all time favorite books, along with Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig, which literally changed my way of thinking about life, learning, and spirituality. This was the time I also discovered Gabriel Garcia-Marquez and One Hundred Years of Solitude, Love in the Time of Cholera, and magical realism.

At 45, I was newly enrolled in the Master's program at San Jose State, so for eight years I read mostly non-fiction books about education, particularly tons of Piaget.

At 50, I wandered back into the fiction world, and that is where I spend a good deal of my time now, but I also read a lot of essay and opinion pieces, including politically-oriented and health-oriented works.

But I just reread Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance for the fifth time, and am getting ready to reread Angle of Repose for the third time.

Cari Rich said...

Like the teach and Nancy, I have a hard time rememberhing exactly what I was reading when, but I, too, went through various "binges" in my life.

For a while I was fascinated by "lawyer" books (John Grisham, etc.) and then I went through a "book/movie" phase and I'll also admit to going through a "guilty pleasure" phase, but I read Jackie Collins (Hollywood Wives, Hollywood Kids) instead of Danielle Steele.

I'm intrigued by the 15 books in 15 mins idea and I just made my list.

Very thought-provoking... thanks, all!

Lisa Fink said...

theteach - I love the idea of 15 books in 15 minutes! I will definitely have to try that next. Nancy, I am a binger as well. I think I read only biographies for one full year in junior high. Renee - Charlotte's Web is always a great book to go back and reread. I had terrible luck using it as a read aloud in my classroom though. I would always cry when Charlotte died! Cari - a few years ago I also did the book/movie thing. After being disappointed too many times, I realized that I needed to watch the movie first and then read the book. I was always left satisfied that way. I have to tell you - everyone's books make me want to go to the library!

Cathy Puett Miller said...

I have been reading mostly a mix of professional research and children's books. However, I do carve out time to read something completely different in the midst -- just for me. I remember reading Dick and Jane as a young child, moving to The Boxcar Children, Nancy Drew and Walter Farley's books about horses as I moved into chapter books. I read The Diary of Anne Frank and The Story of My Life by Helen Keller which totally inspired me in later elementary school! The life story of Madame Curie soon followed. Then, in middle and high school, my mom and I shared/paired reading of Phyllis Whitney and Eugenia Price (mystery and historical fiction) and I adore these authors to this date.

My latest reads: John T. Ritter's The Desperado Who Stole Baseball and Crazy for the Storm.