This afternoon I was holding my four-year-old and he was giggling and almost fell asleep in my arms. While this wasn’t unheard of before social distancing, our lack of hurry has made these moments much more frequent. Of course, I acknowledge this is not a quiet time for those of you on the front line. It’s a time of action and personal sacrifice. Please know I appreciate all that you are doing for the rest of us bums so we can stay home.
The social media question I keep hearing is, “What show should I binge watch?” My question has been, “What should I binge read?” My pastor urged us to find the good in all this, and there are many good things to find. For me, more time to read is definitely something good. Even in a quarantine, life’s too short to read bad books, so I wanted to take time to recommend a few I’ve enjoyed lately.
If you’re missing your library:
My beloved local library is closed. I’m missing the writing time I spend there weekly. I’m missing my favorite librarians. I’m missing its quiet buzz and familiar smell. If you’re having some of the same feelings, you must read “The Library Book” by Susan Orlean. It’s a non-fiction account of the disastrous fire that tore through the Las Angeles Public Library in 1986. This is how it is with me and non-fiction books. I find I suddenly care about a subject I didn’t know even existed before reading about it. I didn’t know there was a fire in 1986 that destroyed 800,000 books. I didn’t know anything about arson or fire investigations, but now I feel I could hold my own in a discussion about such things with experts. If you’re not sold yet, this book does so much more. It acts as sort of a love letter to libraries -how they came to be and what they do to serve communities. I couldn’t put it down and I don’t think you will either.
If you’re spending more time taking walks:
You must read “A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson. Maybe you saw the movie in 2015 starring Robert Redford and Nick Nolte. It’s great, but the book is even better. The author made, what his family thought of as, a rash decision to hike the Appalachian Trail. This book is his humorous, endearing chronicle of what that was like. If you choose to listen to the audiobook, it’s narrated by the author and he’s a great story teller. I actually went on to read a few more books by Bill Bryson because his style of narration is fascinating. One of the few things open right now is walking trails. I know we plan to get out on some as soon as it’s less muddy. I hope this book will inspire you to take a walk in the woods too.
If you’re mind is clearer than usual, read a classic:
I have a bunch of classics on my bookshelf. Most of them were impulse buys from Barnes and Noble because their covers were pretty. When I sit down to read one, I usually can’t focus enough to process the language, so I end up reading a murder mystery that takes place in a pie shop. But, maybe, this quiet has given us the mental focus to be able to attempt a more difficult read.
I love the podcast Overdue because they read and discuss the books we’ve been meaning to read, many of them classics. If you know where to start, maybe check out this podcast for ideas. I recently read “The Great Gatsby" and “Little Women”. There’s a reason these books have endured. They’re wonderful. Maybe it’s time to crack open that collector’s edition on your bookshelf.
If you need a laugh:
This is weird right? And it’s hard. Maybe your job isn’t secure or you have family members who are sick. If social media or the news is making you anxious, you should read “Class Mom” by Laurie Gelman. I laughed the entire time I was reading this book. The cast of characters are so stereotypical and somehow so real at the same time. If you love this book as much as I did, check out the sequel “You’ve Been Volunteered”. So much fun.
If you read seasonally:
This time of year, I love to listen to musicals like Godspell or Jesus Christ Superstar. I love all the TV specials about the Bible and even the old (sort of cheesy) Biblical movies leading up to Easter. I also love Biblical fiction. One of my favorites is an oldie but goodie called “The Robe” by Lloyd C. Douglas. “The Robe” (published in 1942) is the story of the man who cast lots and won the robe Christ wore to his crucifixion. The robe proved to be not just a garment, but something that lead the protagonist and those around him to truth. It’s a long one, but so good. I've been reading through the book of Acts and I keep seeing names I remember as characters in this book. The author did a great job making me feel like I was in the place where Jesus spent his last days.
If you’re reading with kids:
One of my favorite books I’ve read in the past year is “Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crowe” by Jessica Townsend. This book came to me as a recommendation from my brother who read it with his kids. I devoured it and expected to hear others talking about it, but I haven’t. More people need to become acquainted with this wonderful book. It’s got a Harry Potter vibe with plenty of fantasy and adventure. It’s the perfect book for kids with big imaginations to adventure while being stuck at home. This book is a 6th grade reading level, but it’s not inappropriate for younger kids if you’re willing to explain vocabulary they may not know yet. “Nevermoor" is the first in a series that’s not complete yet. The second book “Wundersmith; The Calling of Morrigan Crowe” is also available and the third book, “Hollowpox: The Hunt for Morrigan Crow” will be released August 18, 2020. Now’s the time to read the first two so you’ll be ready for the release in August.
If you’re reading with little kids:
Embrace the season. Can you imagine social distancing if the weather wasn’t so pretty? I can’t remember a nicer spring break in Ohio than we had last week. Yes, there was some rain, but there was also so much sunshine. Books that celebrate spring are always fun to read with kids, but especially this year when sunshine and blossoms are a welcome change from being stuck inside.
I love the book “Finding Spring” by Carin Berger. It’s beautifully written and the illustrations…well you can see from the cover that it looks like someone scrapbooked flowers and photographed them. The entire book is done this way and it’s stunning!
Another favorite spring book is “Worm Weather” by Jean Taft. It has a sing-songy rhyme that just rolls off the tongue. Even though my kindergartener wrinkles her nose at the worms, she always smiles when we read it.
"April 22 is Earth Day. One of my favorite books about the earth is called “Curious Questions and Answers about our Planet" by Miles Kelly. If you have inquisitive kids who like science, this is the book for you. It’s full of interesting facts about the earth that you can read in one sitting or in little chunks. Also, if your kids like this book, there are other topics in this series such as: oceans, dinosaurs, animals, and solar system. Personally, I’ve never seen so many people out taking walks, bike rides, and hikes in my life. I think we’ve all sort of “renewed our vows” with the earth in the last few weeks. I hope we continue to love and cherish it long after we can go other places.
Whenever I’m going through a transition or trial, I remember how I felt, who I was with, and what book I was reading at the time. I truly feel like books can make this time not just bearable, but enjoyable. Have fun choosing books that speak to you in this unique situation so you can look back and say, “It was confusing. I was with my family 24/7. And I remember I was reading that one book. Boy was it good.”