A Manic Mom’s Book Year

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA2013: the year the boys stopped letting me read to them. Well, it was probably time.

Silly how I would still be reading to kids aged 11 and 14, right? Thing is, it gave me insight on what they were reading, let me foist my favorite authors on their little ears, and gave me an excuse to explore stuff I should have read by now anyway.

There are benefits to reading aloud daily for a decade and a half, including the fact that I now have a decent radio voice, and can read from a script without sounding like a robot …something one must learn to do in order to accept awards gracefully.


Then there’s the added bonus of being able to read aloud while unconscious. More than once I’ve dozed while reading, and still kept reading. Did you know that was possible? Yup. You start reading a perfectly coherent sentence about red fish and blue fish and end up sounding like you really are on mushrooms.

These boys don’t need to experience mom on ‘shrooms. Pretty much nobody needs that.

Somewhere along the line, Mike read that fewer than ten percent of the US population will read one book this year for recreation. Something like that. Of course, 90 percent say they could write a book if they had the time. That means a whole buncha knuckleheads think they could publish a book someday they won’t bother to read (“a whole buncha” is a statistical term for, um, lots. Sorry to get all technical).

How’s that for making you sad for humanity?

From that point we started keeping lists of books we read each year. This was a good thing to do, because I have a terrible memory and I read a lot of crap that I forget I’ve read and then check out or buy again only to get halfway through and think “wait, this is deja vu, plagiarism, or my colossally bad memory didn’t warn me about not liking this crap the last time I read it. Shoot.”

Because many of you must like to read too (hello? How else would you make it through this drivel?), I thought I’d share a selection of my reading material for 2013.

julesThe end of an Era
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, by Jules Verne, is the last book I read aloud to the boys. I didn’t even get halfway through it before summer break started and the kids were tired of the late nineteenth century language – copious use of the term ‘poop deck’ and the juvenile giggles it inspired notwithstanding. We didn’t even get to the part where the monster appears before the boys tired of the lack of action. If Jules Verne could incorporate a little Call of Duty: Black Ops, we’d be in business. Shoot some guys up, talk about the poop deck, shoot some more, talk. See Jules?

The new thing is the kid-mom book club.
Now, instead of my reading aloud, we have a less formal arrangement where someone reads something they love and insist I drop every freaking thing right now to read the same thing so we can talk about it for ten minutes. This year, those selections included:

GiverThe Giver, by Lois Lowry. Jonah is a 12 year old in what seems like – but really isn’t – a utopian society. This is a selection I pushed on my book club the month it was my turn to host. I even got our 14 year old to participate.

His “um, yeah, like, it was cool. And stuff,” wasn’t particularly insightful, but Jack and I had some great car conversations about the good that comes with the bad and what we value as a society. The bonus is there are a couple of sequels to the book, so if your child is particularly inspired, there’s no need to stop reading.

Legend, by Marie Lu. Another dystopian society and a couple of kids who fight the power. Fairly light reading, lots of action. A little less meat for car conversations, but both kids insisted I read this so we could talk about it. I’m not sure I appreciate the reoccurring theme we’re seeing in a lot of youth lit here: parents dead, kids make it on their own, and piss off the authorities in the process. But reading is reading.

Adult fiction selections that weren’t garbage. 

orchardistThe Orchardist, by Amanda Coplin. Lyrical and haunting and set in the turn of the century Pacific Northwest. A quiet man finds himself fostering two runaway girls and raising the daughter of one as his own. Coplin’s use of language and her ability to tell a story make this a book even I will have a hard time forgetting. I lent this book to my friend Stephanie who lent it to her sister and her mom. All of us have vastly different tastes in reading, and all loved it.

MaddAddam. The third installment of Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake trilogy. What is it with me and tales about dystopian society? Actually anything by Margaret Atwood is phenomenal, and this was no exception.

Stuff that made me giggle while my husband was trying to get some shut eye.

Lets Explore about Diabetes with Owls, by David Sedaris. It’s David Sedaris. Enough said. Oh, and it inspired at least one post, but probably not in the way he would have expected.

flaskMommy Had a Little Flask, by AK Turner. Her second in a series of memoirs about motherhood and marriage. Real life, only funnier.

Lets Pretend this Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir), by Jenny Lawson, AKA The Bloggess. More inspiration and a fun read.

Non fiction stuff that I almost finished.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain. I’m going to finish this one. I am. I need to understand why my youngest son shrinks from the spotlight, and finishes every sentence with “and don’t post this on facebook, mom.” I’m also married to an introvert. Deep thinkers, those guys.

accursedAnd a bonus. The book I’m most excited about so far this year …

The Accursed, by Joyce Carol Oates. As meaty as anything by Oates, it takes a couple chapters to get sucked in. Set in turn of the century Princeton with a cast from history, this is the kind of stuff Twilight readers might enjoy if they grow into an appreciation of literature (lookit, I read the whole Twilight series in a little over a weekend, so don’t get all hatey on me for being a book snob). Vampires, the occult, I’ve been dying to read it since I saw Stephen King’s review in the New York Times last March.

Oh, and by the way, Stephen King has a sequel to The Shining I plan to read. Dr. Sleep is a follow up on the Redrum kid who completely freaked me out with his throaty voiced pinky finger in the movie. I’m also kind of scared because you could wreck The Shining sixteen  ways from Sunday. Nevertheless it’s on my list.

… and if you have some book suggestions the kids and I can share for our impromptu car talks, let me know. We prefer dystopian societies. And sometimes zombies.


Remember: I love votes and comments and long, slow walks on the beach at sunset (just kidding about the walks on the beach).


You may also like

No comments

  1. As a fellow-read-to-the-kids-er, I loved this post! As they got older, we always read the same books. And had hours, literally hours, of discussions. We even went as far as to figure out who should play the parts of favourite characters if our current reads were made into movies! So much fun! I can recommend a couple of good Christmas reads when the time gets closer. Okay, well, they were written by me, but if I don\’t like them, who will?! 🙂

    1. I will definitely pick up your books next Christmas, Diane. I\’m sure I can get away with Christmas read-togethers for nostalgia\’s sake if nothing else!

  2. I think you and the boys will like \”The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp\” by Rick Yancey. Bob and my coworker also liked the Orchardist and I\’m returning it to you soon since I\’ve lent it to pretty much everyone I know.

    1. Thanks for the recommendation. I also noticed I still have your copy of The Wild, I have to get to. Colin says to tell you he\’s enjoying The Last Legion. Thanks for thinking of him.