Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: I'm Off Topic Again

The Broke and The Bookish's theme this week is characters who are book lovers.  I felt like the ones I thought of were pretty obvious (Jo in Little Women, Hermione, etc.), so I hunted around for another top ten that happened before my time.

This week I'll be sharing with you ten of my favorite book related memories, in chronological order.

I've already mentioned this, but one summer my sister Peg and I read C. S. Lewis's The Silver Chair together. I was about nine, which would make her twenty.  After the dinner dishes were washed, we'd cozy up together on the chaise lounge (turquoise flowers, wooden frame) and take turns reading.  One night she'd read me two chapters, and the next night I'd read one to her.  It's always been one of my favorite Narnian books, in no small part because of the fun we had sharing it.

In the long, lazy summer between high school and college, my best friend and I brought The Accidental Tourist everywhere we went and took turns reading out loud to each other.  The leisurely pace and our conversations about the book mean the story of Macon's heartbreak and subsequent growth have stayed with me for a very long time.

I read The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, by Milan Kundera, while sitting on my windowsill at the International People's College in Denmark.  It is a short book, and I usually race through everything I read, but it was so beautifully written that I tried to slow myself down, so the experience wouldn't end.  I've never re-read it, because the moment was so special to me, and I'd hate to have it ruined by middle aged cynicism.

After a year living in Latvia and studying the language, I decided to ease into reading by choosing a translation of a book I was already familiar with.  Thus The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe became my first book read in a foreign language.

1987-1991, 1991-1992, 1993-1994, 1996-1997
I worked in libraries.  Throughout college, I worked in the Interlibrary Loan department of the school library, and my bosses become both parent figures and friends.  After college I was a page at the local library until I got a chance to go overseas, and when I returned, I got a job managing the ILL department at Reed College until I left for Peace Corps.  During grad school, I put in one last stint in the tiny school library, earning barely enough to pay for tea in the local cafe.

A friend and I attended a poetry reading by Ursula LeGuin, a long term hero of mine.  I bought Blue Moon Over Thurman Street, and she signed my copy of Dancing at the Edge of the World.

While spending a year on a Fulbright Teaching Exchange in Riga, I discovered the English Language Library, and promptly signed up.  It was a very small library, so I was forced out of my comfort zone and had to read what was available.  This is the only reason why I finally picked up The Grapes of Wrath.  A few minutes in, I announced to my bemused husband, "I just read the most fascinating description possible--of a turtle crossing the road.  I guess this Steinbeck guy is famous for a reason."

When we adopted two school aged children from Lithuania, I didn't let our lack of a common language keep me from reading aloud to them.  About four weeks into our lives together, we were at a special place on Mt. Hood with my extended family, and I "read" Blueberries for Sal to them--meaning I summarized what was going on in each picture in my very bad Lithuanian.  The next day, I overheard my son saying "kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk" as he dropped pebbles onto the deck.  He was quoting a book I'd read to him!  It was so exciting.  (A few months later, in the middle of a tantrum, he shouted, "What do you know about fun, you old GOOSE!" at my husband, and I surprised them both by starting to giggle.  It's from Sam and the Firefly, and while wildly out of context, it was the only insult he could come up with in the heat of the moment.)

My kids had learned enough English that I could read to them straight off the page.  They still preferred picture books, and rejected the first few chapter books I tried on them.  Finally, however, we started reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.  They leaned into me from either side as we read.   They begged for more each night. I helped clarify when they got confused about what was going on.  After we finished the whole book, we watched the movie together.

I was so blown away by Patrick Ness's Chaos Walking series that I bought More Than This solely because his name was on the cover.  It was on my desk the next Monday morning.  I have one student who had read the whole series, a quiet girl who had been in foster care for the two years I'd taught her.  In 7th grade she had quietly failed all of her classes, but this year she was scraping a C in my class.  She walked into the room, stopped dead, and said, "You bought it?!?"  I asked her if she'd like to read it first.  She nodded fervently, picked up the book, perched on my teacher stool in the front of the room, and spent the rest of the period reading, completely oblivious to the actual class.  I left her alone, and after class ended, sent her on with the book in hand.

Do any of these remind you of your own bookish memories?  Should I just stick with the assigned topic in the future?


  1. This is a wonderful topic! I hope others pick it up.

    I heard Ursula LeGuin read from her book "Changing Planes" at the old Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle. You brought back that memory for me (I can't remember buying or having her sign a book though -- surely I must have?)

  2. Thank you! I just spent time rambling through your blog--I suspect we have similar tastes. I also am now signing up for the Discussion Challenge I learned about on your blog!

  3. I love how you switched up the topic. Your topic is much more interesting than the original. I think you should suggest it to The Broke and The Bookish (if they haven’t done it already).

    Aj @ Read All The Things!


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