Thursday, January 17, 2013

A Different Kind of Reading


“Come to bed! It’s after midnight.”

“Soon. I promise! I’ve only got fifty more pages.”

Maybe you can guess. I have book club in the morning and no way, no way I’m going to sleep before I’ve finished the book. Happens almost every month.

I’m a big reader. Such a big reader that when I made a New Year’s resolution to read more, my daughter smiled. No, she didn’t laugh at me, but almost. “Mom, you already read more than anyone I know. How can you want to read more?”

I don’t know. But I do.

There are different kinds of reading. There’s fun reading snuggled now under the down comforter on a cold night or stretched out on the couch on a rainy day. There’s serious research reading; I keep my notebook by my hand (or my notepad). I underline. I reread. And don’t bother me. There are magazines—the ever growing stack of magazines—and the two newspapers a day. Lots of reading. But nothing quite like book club reading.

First off, often it’s something I’d never chose to read if I were making the calls, but I’m not. It’s on the list; I read the book. Second, I read carefully, after all, I’m going to have to talk about this. Third, I finish—nothing like deadline.

It’s not just book club reading that I relish. I like the book club itself. No matter how meticulously I’ve read, someone catches something I’ve missed entirely. Occasionally, I’m the catcher and amaze someone with what I’ve picked up. Other times, I’ve read something one way and, to my amazement, others take it quite another way. Exhilarating! I don’t need the coffee and cookies.

I’d been missing the book club experience. I was lonely for book club buddies. About four years ago we moved back to Houston after a ‘temporary’ stay of over twenty years in a small town in Georgia. Some things I badly missed about city life, something I liked about small town living, and one thing I loved—my book club. It was an old (founded in 1929), somewhat tradition-bound organization. (Great controversy when someone served refreshments ‘after’ instead of before.) But twenty-five intelligent, thoughtful women gathered every two weeks. The best two days of the month!
I miss my Georgia book club--always will, but
I'm relishing my three new ones. Count 'em, 3!
            When we gave Houston a probationary year, I went on leave. But when we put the house on the market, sadly, I put my resignation in the mail. It wasn’t fair to keep another woman from enjoying what I had loved. But now here I was in Houston, and no book club. I missed it, missed it, missed it.
            So in 2012, when I resolved to read more, I also resolved to find a book club. No one was going to call me up and invite me aboard, so I’d better find my own. Resolution fulfilled! I have three, and I’m thinking about a fourth.  They couldn’t be more different. Once a month I go to my nearby indy mystery book store, Murder by the Book, we read to a theme. This month we’ll read two first novels, both set in England but very different, one is cozy beyond cozy (Wicked Autumn) while the other is dark, dark, dark (The Hollow Man). Every Sunday morning—my family doesn’t believe I’m doing this—I hike over to the nearby Unitarian Church where they welcome new readers—church member or not—into their book discussion group of serious philosophical and historical works. In fact,  next month I’m the leader for the over 800-page From Dawn to Decadence: 1500 to the Present by Jacques Barzun. I’ll be reading very carefully; you can bet on it. (It’s going to take us several weeks to do this one.)
            Finally and where I think I’ve found my book club ‘home’ is at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston where I am a volunteer. The Guild book club takes on a book a month and then we go to lunch. Last we discussed Carvaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane. It’s the book that gave rise to the “Come to bed!” conversation. I thought it interesting but difficult going in, but I came out so excited that I returned to the museum after lunch to look at some familiar works in a whole new way.
            I’ll remember 2012 as a banner year—I kept two resolutions. That may be a record. I’m in three book clubs and, smile if you will, Daughter, I’m reading more.
             (A version of this entry appears at