Reading and listening, listening and reading

book-692575_1280I’ve always considered myself a reader, since the first books I can remember – Dick and Jane, Dr. Seuss, Golden books. After years reading novels and “literature” in school, my reading life as an adult has taken me back to children’s books. Mostly, I read for pleasure, but in my work at the library, it helps to be on top of what’s just come out and what’s popular for young readers and teens. Occasionally I do a storytime, so it’s also great to have some fun books to use for that.

Lately, though, I’ve been struggling a bit as a reader. I spent most of last week re-reading a Harry Potter in French, an exercise I do occasionally to try to hang onto vocabulary I learned eons ago. For reasons I have never been able to figure out, it’s actually easier for me to read in German than in French, despite the fact that I studied French much longer, so it was an enjoyable week, but I wasn’t always entirely sure what was happening. When I faced my stack of middle grade to-be-reads on Sunday, though, I couldn’t really connect with any of them.

I tried, oh, I tried, but even the one I finished kind of annoyed me. Somehow, every single one had a parent who was terminally ill, very ill, missing, an alcoholic, recently deceased, or in prison. (It was a big stack.  Some of those categories fit more than one book. Yikes.) The circumstances surrounding the characters were so unreal and fantastical (and they were supposed to be realistic fiction, I think) that I finally decided to take the whole lot back and start fresh. I had about 10 picture books coming in yesterday, so I thought I’d take a little break, maybe read some adult nonfiction – is this the third time I’ve come up on the list for Dead Wake or the fourth? Part of me wondered, though, if I’d hit the end of a long reading phase.

Then I went to visit two of my homebound patrons. J is losing her sight but still able to read large print. She was happy with everything I’d brought the month before but felt like every book she read might be her last. I suggested she think about having her son get her a CD player so she could try out some books on CD, but she didn’t think it would be the same. She didn’t want to lose the feeling of holding a book in her hands and escaping to another world.

Next I visited my favorite, who is 102 and only listens to books on CD. She considers herself as much a reader as I am. She misses the printed page, but she likes reading too much to let that get in the way. She’s willing to try about anything, although she’s often noted that she favors the male voice in narration and feels a little like a traitor to her sex for it. Since her tastes run mostly to inspirational fiction or family stories, it’s not as easy as you’d think to find books she’ll like — so many are narrated by women. I always schedule extra time when I’m visiting her, since we often talk for a while, mostly about books, but sometimes about why she’s an Anglophile or the Lutheran church or her past life working for the public schools. Even when I’m in a bad mood – like yesterday – I feel better after I’ve talked to her.

So, in the end, I can’t complain about my reading, writing, or listening life. Like everything else, this will pass. I’ll find the next wonderful book I can bother people about, even if it takes me a week or two or even more.

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