I love to read. I spent many lovely afternoons as a child with my nose in a book instead of running outside to play (although I did my fair share of playing, too). And it made me so happy to hear my son say in the car this past weekend "I love books!" Yeah. Me, too.
But here's what I have a serious love/hate relationship with: assigned reading. In school, we were given various educational tomes to read, some way better than others. I wanted to read great literature. In the summer, I would go through my academic parents' bookshelves and read Don Quixote (for fun) and other books that had probably been on their assigned reading list at some point. But there's something different about having to read something and knowing there will be a test. I limped through Moby Dick in English class, wishing I could have been reading something else. I felt a tad bit resentful.
I think it's because reading what someone else tells you to read when they tell you to read it feels like work (and it is). Picking out Moby Dick because you're interested in whaling and want to see what Herman Melville has to say--that feels like fun. Same book, different circumstances.
Which brings me to my excuse for why I can't tell you a single great book I've read this year. Assigned reading. I'm a judge for a contest (which will remain anonymous--for now), and every week or so large packages from publishers show up on my doorstep. Instead of the usual glee that I feel at seeing a package (yay! presents!), I feel dread. Not every book is to my taste, but I have to read it. Some books are so awful I can't believe they a) got published and b) anyone is voluntarily reading them. Others are great and absorbing, but... I still feel that niggling resentment. What if I'm not in the mood to read this particular book? Too bad! There will be a test in November, and I"ve got to read through all the books to get ready. What if I hate it from the first sentence? Too bad! It might just be my bad mood, and I've got to dig deeper to find out if it's any good.
So since my reading list is classified, I'll list out what my seven-year-old has been reading lately:
He's about 200 pages in to the third Harry Potter book, and he's been reading Encyclopedia Brown in school. I've been pretty impressed with their homework--they had to figure out character motivation, sum up the plot points and other essential writerly tasks.
And here's what my kid can't wait to read next. I just pre-ordered it to make sure we have it by his birthday. I just love a kid who asks for books on his birthday/Christmas list, don't you?
So--what are you reading? Anything good for my TBR list in January?