What I've Been Reading

January 31, 2013

McAvoy and Knightly in Atonement.
I used to be a lot snobbier about what I put on my bookshelf: classics, things that Michiko Kakutani didn't burn too badly, big chunky novels that people who visited my house would see and possibly think, "Now, here is the bookshelf of an intellectual person with a sharp and acerbic mind." 

Long, long ago, I was a literature undergrad and even though I did well in my classes, I felt like a big fraud whenever I tried to explicate anything.  I could see patterns and themes just as well as the next average liberal-arts major, but for someone like me, who never pursued a career in higher education, what was the point?  I just wanted to read.  And get lost in what I read.  And not have to talk about it endlessly using words like dionysian or dystopian or postmodern or prelapsarian.

For though it is well and good to read Ulysses and Infinite Jest, I never felt any other part of my body stimulated by these works besides my brain, which clunked along inside my head like an old-fashioned push lawnmower chewing up turf.

In 2010, my man and I attended a live show of one of his favorite podcasts, Too Beautiful to Live.  One of the hosts, Jen Andrews, gave a presentation of books she had found at laundromats.  One of them was a rather preposterous-sounding Scottish Highlander romance novel in which the main character's virginal-blood-stained wedding night bedsheet is used as a flag in battle.  I hooted and hollered with the rest of the audience because Jen Andrews is hilarious.  But later that night, wanting to test out my new Kindle, I secretly found and bought the book, which turned out to be Maya Banks' In Bed with a Highlander.  The very first romance novel I ever bought.

And...I loved it.  I freakin' loved it.  I loved the obstacles and horrible misunderstandings between the hero and heroine.  I loved how they lived in this world overwrought with violence and things that kept them apart.  And I loved knowing that everything (whew) would work out in the end.  I liked the naughty bits.  I liked how the story didn't just move, it flew. 

Like the hungry demon in Spirited Away ("No-Face" is its name) that eats everything in sight, I swallowed the entire trilogy in three days and was delighted to learn that "Scottish Highlander Romance Novel" is not just one title, but an entire genre.  I went on to read everything Monica McCarty has written.  I started on Diana Gabaldon's Outlander; I liked the quality of her writing, but I really, really didn't like what happened to Jaime at the end of the book.  I did research on different historical authors and found Sherry Thomas and Judith Ivory, who have become two more favorites.

To see what the fuss was all about, I read 50 Shades and though it wasn't the greatest thing ever, I enjoyed the mild titillation it inspired.  I moved on to kinkier erotica and found the short story writer Mike Kimera (who is amazing) and the novels of Beth Kery

I read other books, too.  In the last couple of months the ones I've really enjoyed were Doc by Maria Doria Russell, This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz, and The Fault in Their Stars by John Green.  The last nonfiction book I remember enjoying was Tokyo Vice, a book by reporter Jake Adelstein about organized crime in Japan.  I like Anthony Bourdain's writing, but only in small doses.

On a final note, here is why I love to read.