I Haven’t Read a Book in About Ten Years

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This will come as a shock to some – “WHAT? Adrienne hasn’t read a book?! How can this be possible when all she talks about are books?”

Because ten years ago, I was about thirteen. Because ten years ago, all I wanted to do was read. Because ten years ago, I was less stressed. Because ten years ago, all I had to focus on was the book in my hand.

A lot of my old habits are still in place today. I still carry a book with me everywhere, and I never buy a new purse unless it passes the Book Test (can a standard book fit inside it). I still read when I have spare moments, such as waiting in line at the grocery store or when I am waiting for someone. However, I don’t enjoy books like I used to.

I’ve always been a fast reader. But the older I get, the more I realize that my reading speed is slowing down. There are hundreds of excuses why. And the truth is that sometimes I would rather spend time with my friends than read a book. The book will always be there. That moment with my friend will not be. So, I guess you could say it’s a priority shift.

Furthermore, the people who truly love books won’t be on the Internet telling you because they are too busy reading! I love books, sure I do. But sometimes (a lot of times) I get distracted by the Internet and its sparkly world of social media. Now I am more likely to look at page numbers than I was ten years ago, because now my time constraints are greater. I read a lot of children’s books for multiple reasons: I am studying to be a children’s librarian, children’s books are more fun to me, and, in most cases, there are less pages. It takes me two weeks to read a children’s book, whereas it would probably take me less than a month to read a 500-page adult book. Frankly, I am not ready to enter into the adult world yet, but that is another post.

It has been ten years since I fully savored a book, tasted it and let it consume me. I don’t cry as much when I read books anymore, and big part of that is because I am not immersed in the story as I once was. In the age of the Internet and adult life, I am not surprised. But reflecting on this certainly does make me stop and realize what I am missing.

No Longer Apologetic for Being a Woman

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In middle school, I loved a good romance. I used to secretly read books like the Sweet Valley High series, and any story that had a love story was appealing to me. Until now, I never told that I read those voraciously.

Then when I got older, I found out it was taboo. “Chick lit.” Any film focusing on the female condition was dismissed as a “chick flick.” Only appealing to women, not the higher society of men.

I say that sarcastically because I am tired of stories being dismissed because they tell a woman’s tale. Today is Jane Austen’s 239th birthday. She is my favorite author of all time, right up there with J.K. Rowling (Shannon Hale is slowly, but quickly, joining these two literary giants in my high estimation). However, tell someone you are a Janeite, especially a man, and then comes the flow of “Oh, that’s chick lit,” “I read her stuff in high school, it was boring.”

Before I entered the world of librarianship, I was very much a literary snob, but I always kept my “guilty pleasures” secret. If I liked a book that wasn’t of high literary caliber to a man, I kept my mouth shut.

Not anymore! I want to read everything I want to read. I want to read the young adult literature that I’ve been putting off because I am afraid of what others will think when they see me reading a book with a teenage girl on the cover. I am throwing away the idea of “boy books” and “girl books.” Instead, I am calling them children’s books, young adult books, or adult books.

And as far as the stories I like, I may be a “natural born cynic” (to quote last year’s Newbery Award winning-book Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo), as far as romance is concerned, but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy a good story.

You’ve Got Mail is one of my favorite films of all time. I also loved Sleepless in Seattle and When Harry Met Sally. Nora Ephron is the Jane Austen of films – she portrays real women doing real things. Real women, and men, fall in love. Real women, and men, have emotional needs that must be met or that person feels depressed or incomplete. Why must emotions be exclusively a woman’s territory and why must we as women apologize for wanting to meet those emotional needs? Why should our stories, our successes, our failures, our hopes and dreams be of lower culture than those of our menfolk?

I’ll tell you something – they are not lower culture. WE as women are not lower culture. Whether we are writers, teachers, lawyers, doctors, librarians, stay-at-home moms, single with no family, or wives with no children, all of our stories are important. We are all people in the eyes of God. Men, I want to hear your stories. Women, I want to hear yours.

Tell me.