What book will you read next?

15 Jan

I wish I knew what books my mom read —or if she read books. Actually I know she read Antiques Guides, but that was work and hobby-related. And, she read newspapers and magazines. But, I do not remember her reading books for fun.

This query came about recently when a student in the high school where I work asked me what my favorite books are. As a librarian, I am often asked for book suggestions. Requests range from, “Do you have any books by this author?” to “I have to read a biography for class, would you show me some?” Often, during this process I describe books I have read or wish to read. For some reason, this particular student’s request struck me. It might have been the way she asked or her smile, both of which suggested sincerity and seriousness. For a moment I was moved out of my usual librarian way of thinking (asking what she likes to read, trying to get a sense of her taste) and entered into a casual discussion of books. I felt flattered and was eager to share. She had already read my all-time favorite, Jane Eyre, a few times. Not only did she read my favorite modern novel, Memoirs of a Geisha, a dozen times, she even read the autobiography of Mineko Iwasak, the retired geisha who inspired the author. I added that to my list. Soon our discussion was not about my favorites, but about our favorites. We gave each other ideas of what to read next.

Now that my own children are high school students, I often feel like a mother to the students I work with. They come into the library with voracious appetites for fiction. I marvel at how they read so much when encumbered with heavy homework. And, often students who might wear the label, “not interested in school” borrow books as if addicted to reading.  I appease my envy of their reading lists by imagining that their days are longer than 24 hours! Sometimes I joke that they must be renting the books out to other people, they can’t possibly read so many! Once, one of the students admitted that she borrows some of the books for her mom. For a second I thought about how she was taking books away from reading-obsessed students, but I was impressed with her desire to enable her mom’s reading passion.

All of this makes me wonder if my mom missed out on reading for fun or if she was typical of her generation? I know that my friends share books with their moms now. They’ll tell me, “Oh, my mom just finished that one and loved it.” Did their moms habitually read fiction 25 years ago? I often credit Oprah’s Book Club with adding to our society’s obsession with books. Does it follow then that my mom’s generation has more recently become enamored with fiction?

My son and I are now each reading the same book and we often have engaging discussions about books. My daughter and I also share a passion for books. Interestingly, she has a Jane Eyre –ish favorite, its prequel, Wide Sargasso Sea. But that makes sense, their mom is a librarian! When my mom was sick she read self-help books including, Harold Kushner’s Why Bad Things Happen to Good People and Bernie Siegel’s Love, Medicine and Miracles. Assuming pleasure-reading just was not her thing then, I wish my mom could have experienced my passion and maybe even joined me in having a favorite book.


2 Responses to “What book will you read next?”

  1. Cari-Ann Barker February 27, 2012 at 10:22 pm #

    I am thankful that my Mom instilled in me pretty early on that books were magical. My Mom had Multiple Sclerosis my entire life, and as I watched her abilities leave her one by one, her passion for reading only became stronger. Her reading choices became even more fanciful and outrageous.:). She often read historical romance, and fantasy novels. It was an escape from the prison of her body. A place where she had no disabilities, where she was the heroine, and kicked butt! Once she was bed ridden and could no longer hold a book, I bought her audio versions of her favorite books so she could still read. They brought her such joy, books were my escape when she was at her wirst

    • Cari-Ann Barker February 27, 2012 at 10:29 pm #

      I meant worst. 🙂 when she was at her sickest, and close to death, books were my escape. After God called her home, I would read her old tattered books, and would feel the joy she felt, and would feel close to her. I still read for pleasure, not as much as I should 😦 I still read those same old books occasionally, feels like she’s holding me in her arms, and we’re reading together like it was when I was little. 🙂 I am reading a book by Betty White right now, and I know my mom would love it. 🙂

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