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Monday, November 16, 2009

Memories of My Former Life in a Stack of Books

Written by Karen, a mom without a blog

What do the books on my shelf say about ME?

As we all know in the world of supermoms, one of the most important things to remember is that after the day of taking care of your brood, you absolutely need to spend a little time on yourself. Those end of the day moments where we do whatever it is we do to unwind and discover peace….

Truly, I would love to be able to spend some time at night to light some scented candles, bathe, take care of neglected hygiene issues, watch some TV or a good movie. But really, I just only want to get in bed and READ. And unfortunately for me, more often than not, once the house is quiet, I can eek out a few pages from a bedside book before I AM OUT.

I have ALWAYS been a bedtime reader, EVERY SINGLE NIGHT - until June 5, 1995, the birth of my oldest daughter. Since then, my reading has been VERY sporadic.

I miss it. I miss losing myself in a book for hours. I truly, truly miss it. Me time. Reading in bed is me. It helps me connect to the world, travel the world and appreciate the world around me all from the cozy comfort of my own queen-sized bed. It keeps me grounded and sane after a day of chores and children.

The other day, I was laying in bed, looking at the stack of books next to my bed. What to read? What to read? Then it became… wait, what are these books? How did this stack get so big? I realized I had started all of them save for two. Seven books. I tried to remember why each of them sounded interesting enough to me to bring them up from the basement bookshelves to the place of honor next to my bed. And then I tried to remember why I never finished any of them.

And what did these titles say about me? Or the “me” I think I’d like to be?

1) On the bottom of the stack: “Forever Blue: The True Story of Walter O’Malley, Baseball’s Most Controversial Owner, and the Dodgers of Brooklyn and Los Angeles”

HUH? You are really wondering about me now, aren’t you? I started this book five months ago and stopped just shy of chapter six. What was the distraction that kept me from finishing? – a busy summer, looking for mindless travel fodder, who knows?

What does this book say about me? I’m a Dodger fan and I’m glad to have it and I will finish it someday, but I’m going to have to start over – its been too long.

2) “Stephen King: On Writing”

Yes, I’ve always liked Stephen King, but not all of his books. But I like to write occasionally and I’m interested in reading his opinion on writing and how it became his life. It’s been sitting by my bed for a year…

I suck.

3) “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara Kingsolver

A family eats locally for a year – a great achievement. The book will make you either feel bad about yourself and what you and your family consume and waste or it will inspire you to change your life… and then feel bad about yourself as you fail to live up to your own unreal expectations.

Mostly, I aspire to be inspired. I’m not putting this book back in the basement quite yet. I made it to page 51 a few months ago, I can do it again.

4) “The Women on the Wall” by Wallace Stegner

A library book. That in itself makes me feel good because 1) it was free, 2) the amount of time I have to read it is finite, and 3) its local literature. Wallace Stegner is a Salt Lake author, completely smart and a bit intimidating.

The problem? It’s a book of short stories. You’d think that would be perfect for a tired girl like me –who falls asleep after a chapter or less in most cases. BUT, its not, I’ve never been able to get into books that are a collection of essays – I. don’t. know. why. What’s my problem – this guy rocks! My husband praises his name! Ugh…. I’ve renewed it twice and I’m still stuck on the 6th story of 18!

5) “Mansfield Park” by Jane Austen

I’ve finished this book – I’m just reading the Penguin Classics Appendix. Totally true. It’s almost more interesting than the book, which is a rough read by Austen standards (I’ve read two others that I loved). BUT the characters are interesting and the Appendix is explaining A LOT! Besides this is a library book as well and I’m waiting to take it back until I try to work my way through the Wallace Stegner book.

6) “Notes to Myself” by Hugh Prather

Just drug this out of a memory box last month. Its supposed to be one of those inspirational books you can read almost like a bible devotional – something to reflect on as you fall asleep, something to make you THINK. Yikes! It was given to me by an old boyfriend in my mid 20s when I was SEARCHING for meaning in EVERYTHING. Conversations were not simple then and it was a rush to feel smart and creative and analytical – does anyone remember these sorts of moments? Bringing it to my “must read” stack is probably my way of wanting to get my brain cells working again, especially as I may attempt to enter the adult world by getting a job again soon. But so far, my brain is having a difficult time going there…

7) “Wonderful Ways to Love A Child” by Judy Ford

Beautiful – read some of it and feel guilty for not reading all of it 15 years ago when it was given to me by a wonderful friend on the cusp of me becoming a mother. I found this in a memory box also and feel like I could always use a refresher in this area so my relationship to my kids stays real and not robotic…

Someday soon I hope to be able to get to all of these reads - when I don’t fall asleep after just a few pages every night. Maybe I should put most of them back in the basement to take the pressure off. I’m normally a one book at a time sort of girl and this stack is getting a little out of control!

But what should go and what should stay… I don’t know… maybe I’ll just plunk through them as I can – I don’t want to feel like I failed by giving up on any of them!

Honestly, I don’t know exactly what these books say about me – besides that they are dusty and under-appreciated while I snooze away the night, gearing up for another day of not reading…

It won’t always be this way, will it?

What’s on your shelf? And what does it say about YOU?


  1. I finally joined a book club for a two fold purpose, it makes me read at least one book a month, and gets me out for a girls night, once a month! I find that as my kids get older,(I used to read while they napped in my arms!), it is harder to find time to read.
    And the better assortment of material at your bedside, the more interesting you are! ;)

  2. I also am part of a book club and read at least one book a month. I am often able to sneak in an extra book. I take my books everywhere - doctor appts., hair appts., lunches, meetings. Bascially, it stays in my car because I never know when I will have a few moments to sneak a page or two.

    Currently reading The Giver, which is a young adults book and I have read it before. Other great book we read recently was The Gargoyle and East of Eden (also a second read but totally loved it both times!).

  3. i don't even want to know what my books say about me!

    currently being read:
    Scream-Free Parenting (pretty telling, no?)
    Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving
    Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins

    oh, and The Shack is sitting bedside because i felt obligated to get it after everyone made such a fuss about it. the longer it sits there unopened, the less chance it will have of being read.

  4. Okay Karen. You at least HAVE books stacked on your nightstand. You are such an intellectual. A very well-read mom of epic proportions. What does it say about me that two and half years ago when we moved out of our place for the big remodel that I ended up selling most of our old books that had been reduced to a box in the garage? I didn't even want them cluttering up our house with all of the toy clutter that is constantly in my world! I gave all of our books away which basically means "Goodbye brain." And I recently read something from a designer that said, "A room without books is like a face without eyes." Okay that's me. That's us. An eyeless living room face.

    BUT on a positive note, I did just read ( a few months ago) "The Year of Fog." And it was awesome. Totally kept me spellbound throughout and I read it like two days.

    I love your book's awesome.

    And so are you. I think your brain is intact.


  5. Great post Karen, and I would agree that what's on your nightstand tells us all that you are a well-rounded, well-read, and well-intentioned MOTHER!

    I couldn't agree more about snuggling up at night while into a great book. That is my comfort zone for sure.

    I too joined a bookclub which has helped to turn my mommy-mush brain back on. Our group is currently reading THE HELP and I am loving it - right up my alley.

    Also, for anyone interested in another great book. I just finished FIREFLY LANE - another easy, super entertaining read about girlfriends.

  6. OH my goodness...I could write this same post; with a 10 year jump in time. Last night, I was looking at my bed side table, with it's enormous pile of TBR books, ones that I've started, can't wait to start, and ones I'm not sure about, but think I will like. I am craving a book to fall in love with right now. I really need one.

    I MUST read at night, all hunkered down in my bed. No negotiations. Don't worry, you will have more time as the children grow.

    This was such a wonderful post!

  7. Thanks you guys! I love all the book suggestions (to add to my stack!) I'm adding them to my Christmas list! :)
    - AND I really should join a book club - how do you find nice folks to "club-it" with? :)

  8. Oh how I hear you!! On top of the bedside table, and two drawers full as well. Pathetic really. I've cancelled all my magazine subscriptions (except Writer's Digest, of course :-) just so that I might have time to catch up on my books.

    Just finished Dan Brown's "The Lost Symbol." (she looks around to check who's reading) Can't say I really liked it, but felt compelled to finish.

    "On Writing" is very good. Easy one to pick up and put down as needed - I love that about a book. Plain necessity really.

    Lee: Living room without eyes? Isn't that a old Billy Idol song?

  9. Agh! I have a stack by my bed too. I have:
    Someone Knows My Name- amazing historical fiction, gotta pick it back up.
    13 Albatrosses and Eduring- both by Donald Harington. He's the Stegner of the Ozarks. Truly, he's an incredibly talented and prolific writer who just passed away last week. He wrote a book called The Choiring of the Trees that's one of my very favorites.
    Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs- Hysterical commentary on popular culture. I annoy my husband by making him listen to excerpts I read aloud.
    A Brazelton book, a book on how to raise responsible kids- the trouble with those is that you have to read them. Sleeping in close proximity does not increase their effectiveness.

  10. Golly, I'm so out of touch with the book scene, Karen. It's been a WHILE since I read anything (probably last summer). But your comment about losing yourself (and hours of time) deeply involved in a good book is so RIGHT ON! For a busy mom it is nothing short of pure luxury.

    Right now next to my bed? My Wolf Scout Den Leader handbook. (Really. Don't ask.). Also, my homeroom mom binder and a stack of my kids' school work that I just can't seem to throw away. I.totally.suck.

    Your books (although not finished) say GREAT things about you! You are intelligent, well-rounded and open-minded. You rock it, lady!

    Good luck finishing some of those reads...

  11. Mine would say I want to be younger carefree and have lots of boyfriends! LOL After reading every day in class for years with my students, I tend to pick fluff with an occasional meaningful novel here and there.

  12. I go through phases and I have a huge stack of books in my night stand waiting to be read as well, but I can't read a book unless I am in the mood for its genre and so some of them sit there for quite a while. I also tend to get a bit obsessed and start to neglect other things when I get into a book so I try not to always have a book going and to take breaks in between finishing one and starting a new one.

    I have recently started listening to books on disc in the car and while I clean. I love that I can "read" a good book and get things done. Actually that is how I "read" Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

    Jo- I LOVE the Giver. I re-read it yearly, it is such a powerful story.

  13. I've been halfway through "Eat, Pray, Love" for months now.. we're stuck in India and I see no way out.

  14. This is so interesting. I never thought to look at the book titles I have on my shelf. I guess I'm kind of morbid. I love reading a bit of dark fiction. Although, like you, that was all pre-motherhood :)


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