Sunday, July 5, 2009

Sunday Salon: Reading: My Life?

I'm trying to create a short bio (as opposed to a resume) for something reading related and it has caused me to pull back and think about all the things related to reading that go on or have gone on in my life starting in 6th grade when I got an award for reading the most books of anyone in school that year (356 for anyone curious and yes I still have the award in my memory box).

I went on to major in English in college. When I called my parents to tell them I'd declared my major, they didn't even ask what I had declared. My dad just asked unprompted, "What on earth are you going to do with an English major." The correct answer, of course, is "Go to graduate school." Because as I discovered after graduate school, people in the business world really do want to know what use an English degree will be. And the unimaginative among them won't hire you.

But I lucked out and found work in the holy grail industry of English majors everywhere: publishing. And I supplemented my publishing job with a job as a part-time bookseller at an indie bookstore because everyone should be surrounded by books 24/7. With the publishing gig, first I freelanced. Then I was hired on full time with the fancy title of Media Indexing Editor. Long story short, instead of editing, I wrote for them. Oddly enough given my inability to be brief, I wrote picture captions. And it was a great job. One I really loved. But I gave it up to stay at home and read Goodnight Moon and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom until I could recite them in my sleep (can still do the latter 12 years on, incidentally).

Unlike some people who say they can't find the time to read when their babies are little, I made the time because I wouldn't have stayed sane without my books. And to help me make the time, I started joining book clubs. I was once at an all time high of four physically in person book clubs and countless online groups. They helped me find great books I might not have found otherwise and they inspired me to continue to write reviews of everything I read, something I started doing while still working. (These started out small and only slowly evolved into the longish bits I write now.)

And my kids grew older and started school, I was faced with the PTA conundrum. How to volunteer without admitting to my general dislike of children not my own? First I signed up to help tutor first graders with their reading. I don't remember learning to read myself (I was obnoxiously precocious) so helping kids who were struggling was quite eye-opening. It also gave me an appreciation for what my own crew went through as they each learned to read in their own time. After my year of tutoring, I found yet more reading related volunteer work to do, chairing the March Is Reading Month event at school called Beach Blankets and Books.

And just when I'd run out of bookish volunteer jobs for the trapped with young children, we upped stakes and moved. And the first thing I did when we moved in was to head to the local bookstore and join two of their book clubs. I never once got lost finding the bookstore, the same of which cannot be said for the grocery store or other important places. Guess which place is most necessary to my general happiness?!

While in this new place, I started three different book clubs myself, as if the two existing groups weren't enough. One fizzled for lack of interest. One is still going strong and I am still the "Supreme High Book Chooser" for the group, meaning I impose my will on everyone for the three months a year that we meet (no sign of a coup yet and occasionally I am a benevolent enough dictator to offer to let others help choose remaining secretly pleased when everyone demurs). And the third, well, I suspect it is gone too but I can't be sure because we've moved states yet again.

And in this newest of places (a year next month!), I am finding that my children are old enough and self-sufficient enough that I can start re-immersing myself in the wholly bookish world I enjoy most. I immediately jumped into two new book clubs, neighborhood based and bookstore based. I started this blog, a great improvement over the web pages of reviews I used to keep. I am more actively reviewing and trying to be more thorough in my reviews. I am reading more (although I will never be able to best my sixth grade self; after all, I no longer have a recess I can spend in the library) and starting to share books with my kids, which is pretty cool. I've joined the WNBA. If you've been paying attention so far, you'll know that is has nothing to do with basketball and everything to do with books. I look forward to getting more involved with it and dipping a few more toes back into the waters of the professional book world. Who knows what will come next for me and my reading. One thing I do know for sure though: you'll generally find me lost in a good book (or trapped under a toppled to-be-read mountain).


  1. >>And my kids grew older and started school, I was faced with the PTA conundrum. How to volunteer without admitting to my general dislike of children not my own?<<

    I like you for this passage alone! I am a mother of four children. Because I didn't stop at one, people assume that I am baby crazy and want to volunteer for all sorts of activities like the nursery at church. The time I spend with my own children satisfies my daily kid quotient, thank you :-).

  2. I agree with Dani ;-)

    My book related volunteering was in the library. We had an awesome librarian and every classroom had a set library time every week! Each teacher was supposed to have 2 parents volunteer during that time. I became the parent the librarian called when the other parents flaked.

    The librarian is the only reason I'd do elementary school again!

  3. I'm an English major now and I have no idea where this path would lead me to. If anything, I'll opt for traslation or interpretation. I get so frustrated and seriously consider delving into other fields if I have chance to advance my learning in graduate school.

  4. Be careful where you dip that toe....I never dreamed when I was just starting to dip that I'd end up as a school librarian!


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