Sunday, September 27, 2009

Off the Wagon

Reading is my greatest guilty pleasure. I have no self-control, so I generally read in phases- a few weeks on, a few weeks off. I have to let my body recover from the nights spend hunched over on the cold tile floor of my bathroom while I read "just one more page" of a book I started with a promise "just to read the first few chapters." I generally finish the book around 4 a.m., crawl in bed with a sore butt and bloodshot eyes, cursing myself for staying up so late for a book that could still be sitting on my nightstand tomorrow. I usually wake up JP to tell him how mad I am at myself. He always backs me up.

My passion for the written word has gotten me in trouble many times. In elementary school my sister and I were frequently grounded for staying up past our bedtimes to read our books - usually with a flashlight under the covers. I had to sit out at recess in 4th grade - the only time I ever got a demerit - because my teacher found me reading my "fun" book tucked into my textbook in class. (In my defense, I'd already finished the chapter we were supposed to read. Not in my defense, it was a Babysitter's Club book and not anything that was going to expand my mind more than re-reading the assigned chapter.) In high school I quit pleasure reading cold turkey when I stayed up until moments before I had to leave for morning practice finishing Jurassic Park. By the time I'd survived the 5 a.m. practice, gone to school for 8 hours, and then done another 2 hour swim practice in the afternoon I thought I was going to die. I started up again when I had hip surgery the summer before college and when I did, and I was amazed and dismayed to find how slow my brain was processing the words - my eyes would skip ahead at their usual pace only to reach the end of the page and have no idea what they'd read. It was nearly a year before I didn't have to re-read a good portion of the pages. I hadn't realized that reading was a skill you had to stay in shape for.

I mentioned a while ago that I've been reading a lot more since I started working. This surprised me- after all, as a lawyer I spent most of my day reading. But at night there is nothing more relaxing than keeping the TV off and curling up in the corner of our couch with a good, semi-mindless book. Maybe I'm tired of staring at a screen. Or maybe I've finally reached a point where I have to be so "on" all-day, that even an extrovert like me needs to turn-off and escape. Preferably into medieval Wales.

I read five books while we were in D.C. - three of them were the Circle trilogy by Nora Roberts, a short and fluffy series about good v. evil that left me caring far more about the main characters than Stephenie Meyer ever got me to do in the extraordinarily one-dimensional (yet still somehow intriguing) Twilight books. Then it was darker fare from Ken Follett with The Pillars of the Earth and A Dangerous Fortune. I returned home to a new shipment from Amazon and was finally able to finish the Welsh series by Sharon Kay Penman -- absolutely phenomenal, if you like historical fiction- really good, heavily researched historical fiction that will have you googling the characters after you're done because you now must know everything about them, read her books. I cried my way through the end of The Reckoning and then dreamed about it all night. I still feel haunted. I love the way a good book can get under your skin and stay there for a while.

An Echo in the Bone, Diana Gabaldon's latest installment is sitting on my desk at work. I've waited four years for that book. I had it delivered to the office so I could rip open the box the minute it arrived, but my plan backfired when I ended up in Houston for training from Wed-Fri of last week. It was a blessing in disguise because I stayed up very late with The Reckoning my first night in the hotel room (and very, very late working Monday and Tuesday night before I left) and I needed to catch up on my sleep this weekend. I'm almost afraid to pick up the new book tomorrow. I'm headed to Fort Worth Tuesday for a hearing and won't be back until very late and I have so much to do and I might be getting sick... I may have to give to my secretary to hold in a secret drawer until Friday.

This is one of the many reasons why I can never try recreational drugs, I can't even keep my reading habit under control.

(and if you'd like to feed my habit, I'm almost at the end of your suggestions- if you have any more, send them my way! I like just about everything.)


  1. Have you read Tracy Chevalier's books? She wrote Girl With a Pearl Earring, but my favorite's are Falling Angel and The Virgin Blue. Also, Thirteen Moons by Charles Frazier is divine.

  2. Haha. In 4th grade, I purposefully skipped recess with my book club to read Babysitters Club books.

    Thanks, I did not realize one had to train oneself to read again. I gave up leisure reading in law school and thought internet surfing ruined my ability to concentrate on a, almost year to recover though...

  3. oops - "purposely", not "purposefully"

  4. I gave up reading in college - I would zoom through tons of books during breaks, but would not allow myself to read during semester. Finishing school was one of the grandest things because I could READ again. Are you on It is a great place to keep track of your reads and to see what your friends are reading, too. It is very easy to setup and use, I often use their interface as an example for my husband when we are talking site design.

  5. Ha ha! Sounds a bit like me...except for the busy attorney part! :D Reading truly is a great thing. If you like light and fluffy romance, try Sabrina Jeffries (Older stuff is better; perhaps start with the Royal Brotherhood series). Ignore cover, read contents. :P

    Thanks to my kindle, I no longer have a house full of embarrassingly-covered genre fiction. :D

  6. The Rashi's Daughters trilogy by Maggie Anton has had me captivated the last few weeks. It's historical fiction set in Medeival France, about a Jewish scholar and his family. Fabulous reads.

  7. Did you enjoy "The Pillars of the Earth?" I keep seeing it in the bookstore and consider getting it, but I don't know anyone else who's read it.

  8. You should get a Kindle.

  9. Don't know how you feel about fantasy - I hadn't read any for years until my book club picked Tales of the Dying Earth by Jack Vance this month. Beautifully written, totally engrossing, and even better, much of it is shorter, interconnected stories that were written as a magazine series. Which means that the chapters end neatly and it's easier to put it down and go to bed. :)

    One thing to note - it can be hard to find Vance's work - but he gotten written up recently and so I think they've started to print more copies.

  10. In 2nd grade, I was so engrossed in Are You There God It's me Margaret that I didn't notice my entire class going to gym. My teacher thought it was adorable :)

    Marisa de los Santos' Love Walked In and Belong To Me are fun reads. I just finished Richard Russo's That Old Cape Magic (he's my favorite author ever), and I recently read Olive Kitteridge (which might be good for you b/c it can be read as short stories that stand alone or as a novel-- you might be able to stop between stories :)

  11. LL - I'm a high school classmate that has lurked since finding you through Adrienne's blog :-)

    I have to chime in the Pillars of the Earth is an excellent read. It's such a meaty book, but is so hard to put down, so it leads to late night reads and work interruptions. World Without End is the sequel and is equally brilliant. I've been looking for new books to obsess over, and I think I'm going to have to try Sharon Kay Penman. And I second the nomination for Tracy Chevalier - those are really good historical lit reads.

    It's fun to see where life has taken you since 2001 outside of Facebook :-)

  12. These books have been out a while but I love them, The Lovely Bones by Alice Seabold and The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. TTW and Lovely Bones have both been released as a movies, LB in December, but I am skeptical about the whole books-to-movie thing. Read the books first!

    I am glad to hear good things about Pillars. I've had it sitting on my bookshelf forever but haven't had the guts to pick up the giant!


  13. I'm reading the Lytton Family Trilogy by Penny Vincenzi. It begins with No Angel and is a family saga in England. Wonderfully strong women and addictive. Long books, though. So it may not help your addiction

  14. "This is one of the many reasons why I can never try recreational drugs, I can't even keep my reading habit under control."

    Love that comment. Looks like there are a whole crew of us here with addictive personalities. I read like crazy as a kid (often rereading the same books over and over) but Law School totally turned me off reading for pleasure. Sucked all the interest and desire out of me. It was probably five years after Law School before I started really reading again.

    And now I do as you, take deliberate planned breaks from reading any books just so I can get something else done. Which reminds me, I started a new book today and it's been tugging at the corners of my mind ever since. Should I pick it up again or head to bed? Decisions, decisions... it's guaranteed that I will always make the wrong one!

  15. This is seriously eerie to read - as though I had written the post myself - right down to the Jurassic Park late night reading!

  16. The Sparrow and its sequel by Mary Doria Russell. I still carry that book in my head. It's haunting and I read it 4 years ago. Her other book is also wonderful (A Thread of Grace).

    I also love Geraldine Brooks's Year of Wonders and March. I have People of the Book on my bedside table.

    And those books by Gabaldon are like crack. I had to force myself to take a break after I could re-enter the world.

  17. I rediscovered my like for reading two summers ago but this summer I rediscovered my LOVE of reading. I read 22 books in the four months of this summer! NOW I need a 12 step program!

  18. Pillars of the Earth (and The Sparrow, mentioned above) are two of my all-time favorites.

    Tell me the three in the Sharon Kay Penman series? They're definitely going on my list.

    I'm reading 3 at the moment (and I hate having more than one book going, but such is life) -- My Life in France by Julia Child, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (not sure the author but it's set in post-WWII England and is adorable), and am 2 books down in the Twilight series, ready to start Eclipse.

    TV sucks lately (except Thurs. nights and Flipping Out), which is why it's awesome to be a reader. :)

  19. Nora Roberts writes as JD Robb. Her In Death series is AMAZING!

  20. "The Last Samurai" by Helen DeWitt is probably my favorite book in the world (no connection to the Tom Cruise movie). I imagine it might be particularly fun for the mother of a precocious son.

    If they suit your taste, Neil Gaiman's books are quite good - 'The Graveyard Book' is a good place to start. 'Neverwhere' and 'American Gods' are great quick reads, but aimed at adults.

    Philip Pullman's HIs Dark Materials books are engrossing, though the philosophical underpinnings are way darker and more complicated than you'd think, given that they're marketed at young adults.

    A.S. Byatt's Potter family literary novels are lovely, though I don't know if they'll count as light reading. You can start with any of them without feeling lost - my favorite was the last, 'A Whistling Woman.' (Virgin in the Garden, Still Life, Babel Tower, and Whistling Woman)

    Happy reading! --- jo

  21. Thanks for all your suggestions!

    el-e-e, the three books of Penman's Welsh series are: Here Be Dragons, Falls the Shadow, and The Reckoning. So, so good.

  22. More Sharon Kay Penman!!! I've finished the Eleanor of Aquitaine/Henry II series and loved it (although not as much as the Welsh trilogy which was AMAZING, my all-time favorite series). Sunne in Splendour is phenomenal too. I have reviews on goodreads...

    I also recommend Elizabeth Chadwick. The Greatest Knight is next on my To-Be-Read pile. When I saw Sharon Kay Penman at a book signing, she said that Elizabeth Chadwick is her favorite HF author.

    Right now, I'm working on The Fruit of Her Hands by Michelle Cameron about Jews in the Middle Ages. Very good so far. I'll post my review on when I'm done.

    Since you just read Pillars of the Earth, I recomend the sequel World Without End. I liked it a lot, almost as much as Pillars.

    If you haven't read anything by Noah Gordon yet, The Physician is PHENOMENAL (11th Century Europe and Middle East). I also really liked Shaman (pre- and post- Civil War US) and The Last Jew (set during the Spanish Inquisition). I have reviews for all of these on goodreads as well.

    If you want something fluffier, I liked The Innocent trilogy by Posie Graham Evans (set during the Wars of the Roses) and The Borgia Bride by Jeanne Kalogridis (early 15th Century Italy/Naples).(Reviews on goodreads)

    Not medieval Historical Fiction, but I absolutely LOVED The Invisible Mountain by Carolina De Robertis (my review is on goodreads). It is still HF, but about Uruguay and Argentina from the turn of the 20th century until the end of the dirty war.

  23. I agree with the comment above: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is excellent! Gaimen's American Gods is also good. We found a children's book by Neil Gaimen last week: The day I traded my Dad for a fish. Something like that...nicely illustrated too.
    A great list of new books for me, too. Thanks!

  24. I took your recommendation when you first recommended Outlander a few months ago. It sat unread for months before I finally just ran out of books and took it on an airplane trip to England with me. I was absolutely heartbroken when I couldn't buy the second book in England and had to wait to get home! I'm on the fourth one now (they just get better and better). Thanks SO much for recommending her.