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“A book, too, can be a star, ‘explosive material, capable of stirring up fresh life endlessly,’ a living ﬁre to lighten the darkness, leading out into the expanding universe.” – Madeleine L’Engle
I’ve always loved reading. It stems from the memories I have of visiting the Woodlawn Heights Branch of the NY Public Library with my grandmother and later the Mount Vernon, Bronxville and Yonkers Public Libraries. I even found myself trekking to Copley Square in amiable weather to spend hours soaking in the grandeur of the Boston Public Library when I wanted a break from the library on the BU Campus (Go Terriers!).
Apart from the serenity I feel in libraries, I loved the ritual of picking out novels that caught my eye – for whatever reason – and diving headlong into the works of writers from a particular literary movement, like the Harlem Renaissance, or consuming as much of a single author’s work as I could find like Stephen King or Agatha Christie. I’m sure my childhood predisposed me to find joy in spending hours alone consumed by the worlds created in the stories I read.
When the twins were born three years ago, everything in my life came to a screeching halt. To say I was unprepared for the disruption to how I had become accustomed to living is an understatement. In many ways, I don’t think anyone can really explain how parenthood alters you forever. It was in this shellshock of being a new mom that I came across this Vox article, probably while mindlessly scrolling Facebook in a lull between feeding, changing and bathing. That first paragraph said it all:
“My life became a cultural wasteland… No more books, no more movies — only television provided a last, desperate bastion of artistic connection, consumed in small doses through a semi-conscious daze.”
Somehow this woman overcame that rut to read over 100 books in a year. I was inspired. I was motivated. I even saved her spreadsheet to see how many of the books on her list I could read, though I was quickly intimidated by the sheer size. After that, I read a trickle of new books; maybe a handful in 2016 and 2017 combined. 2018 was different. I felt like in a new place, where I knew no one and was staying home instead of working there was nothing holding me back. I am still nowhere close to reading 100 books, but I have spent more time seeking out new books to read by authors from diverse backgrounds. What I ended up reading were six very different books by women – a couple familiar, the majority not – whose voices captivated my imagination and transported me from the at times overwhelming reality of living abroad.
An American Marriage
Other People’s Houses
The Italian Party
Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo”
Little Fires Everywhere
The Japanese Lover
I’m hoping to fit in at least a few more books before the new year. How many books do you get through in a year as a parent? Have you read something recently that I absolutely need to add to the list?