I use Grammarly’s plagiarism checker on this post. What’s Grammarly? It’s a website for people like me (and maybe you?) who know when to use the terminal comma, who embrace the semi-colon, and who shudder at the thought of a split infinitive. Load your text into Grammarly’s super-cool grammar checker and little grammar gnomes point out all of your errors, suggesting ways to tighten up your syntax. Since I haven’t remembered every bit of writing wisdom from my eighth grade English teacher Mr. Doty, Grammarly is here to save me from spliced commas and other punctuation horrors. The whizzes at Grammarly invited me to try their service, providing me with a 30-day trial and thank you gift card. Learn more about Grammarly here. Now, onto the post…
That’s the number of books stacked on the floor next to my bed. They are a mix: novels by Margaret Atwood and John Irving, and nonfiction books on parenting, social media, leaning-in, and healthy eating. And some travel books. And a coupon book I bought as a PTA fundraiser but keep forgetting to use; it’s next to bed in the hopes I will finally look it over.
This number doesn’t include the magazines piled up in a basket under my bedside table, the books on my iPad, the magazines in our den, and the newspapers that arrive each Saturday and Sunday mornings. (There may be books in that basket, too, under a blanket, but I’m not going to look. I’m already too behind.)
I’ve been wondering what all of these books and periodicals say about me. Do they say that I like to read? Or, that I need more time to read (and to do so much more)? Or, perhaps those books indicate that I have a mind open to new ideas? (That last one is my favorite.) No matter how you interpret my stack of 28, it’s clear the written word and I have a solid relationship.
To that point, one of my goals is to making books a priority in 2014 (after family, friends, career, etc.). I’ll still get in time for magazines, weekend newspapers, and blogs, but books will move front and center. This month, in an effort to carry through on my goals, I read three new books, joined a book club, and raided my husband’s iTunes account to load up the iPad with some new reads.
Which books did I finish?
1. “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen – Confession #1: I hadn’t read any Jane Austen before this book, which surprised me. The Brontë sisters, yes, but Austen had somehow escaped my library card. I ended my no-Austen streak by reading the much-beloved “Pride and Prejudice” as a member of a new book club. And, this leads us to…. Confession #2: I read the wrong book. I showed up to the book club—the group’s third gathering but only the first time I could make it—only to discover we were to have read “Sense and Sensibility” not “Pride and Prejudice.” Oops. It wasn’t embarrassing at all. Not.at.all. Fortunately, as one of the other members pointed out, the books are pretty much the same: down-on-their-luck families with daughters they are trying to marry off to rich husbands. Broken hearts. Miscommunications. Reconciliations. True love. I managed to keep up in the discussion fine, and, since many there had read both books, we analyzed each, and had a rich conversation. This new book club is filled with mothers from my town, and I had a great time (so great that I am hosting next month’s gathering). But the book? “Pride and Prejudice” is not my “cup of tea,” I’m afraid. I didn’t get the appeal of Mr. Darcy on the page, though he was quite appealing in the movie. Conclusion? No more Austen for me.
2. “Matchpoint” by Elise Sax – About a year ago on Red Letter Reads, I reviewed the first in Elise Sax’s matchmaker series, “An Affair to Dismember.” It was a funny, enjoyable read with some laugh-out-loud moments. I called that first book a “home run.” Earlier this month, I remembered Sax had a second book (with a third coming out next month), so I spontaneously downloaded it to the aforementioned, and slightly overworked, iPad. Again, Sax delivered a successful story, one that’s perfect for the subway ride to work or an afternoon at the beach (something I’m dreaming of in this 11 degree weather). Part mystery/part chick lit, it’s the “lightest” read in my January trio, which made it a nice break between “Pride and Prejudice” and “I am Malala.” Conclusion? I’m planning to read third book in the series when it’s released.
3. “I am Malala” by Malala Yousafzai – This book, a moving memoir of life under the Taliban for a young Pakistani girl and her family, is terrific and absolutely worth reading. Malala, a 15-year-old activist for the education of girls in Pakistan, was shot by the Taliban on her way home from school one day. She survived and is now known around the world for her bravery. (Check her out here on “The Daily Show” and here when she addressed the United Nations on her sixteenth birthday.) She was even nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize!
Had it not been for the assistant rector at my church, “I am Malala,” would have been a book I put on my “I should read this” list and never read. A few months ago, she suggested that those of us in the church’s women’s group read the book and meet for a discussion. Intrigued, I started the book several weeks ago, also on our iPad. Several of us gathered earlier this week for a delicious dinner and conversation about “I am Malala,” and it was one of the best discussions I’ve had about a book since grad school. We covered everything from world politics to poverty to women’s rights to education to faith, thanks to Malala’s story. At the end, the assistant rector asked us what “gift” we took from “I am Malala,” and our answers included the impact of her bravery in the face of such oppression, the inspiration she offers to all of us, and, for me, the reminder about what is truly important: family, health, peace, education, safety, and faith. Conclusion? Read this book.
Will I get through that stack of 28 this year? Maybe. I have a hunch, though, that that stack will get MUCH higher before it gets smaller—which, “in my book” (I couldn’t resist the pun!), is just fine.