books through the ages

March 3, 2011

reading rainbow
i like to read. a lot. the funny thing is that while i was a voracious reader during childhood, i put this practice away during the ‘academic’ years of college and medical school! it would be convenient to claim i traded novels for textbooks, but i fear that’s a half-truth — TV and the internet are as much to blame, if not more so, than MCAT/USMLE/shelf-exam prep ever was.

a couple of years ago, though (2009?), i rediscovered books. i picked up murakami’s norwegian wood, started reading a bit each night, and was amazed at how relaxing and fun the practice was. after that, i basically just started chain-reading — starting my next tome immediately upon finishing the last one.

don’t get me wrong — by no means am i a prolific reader! i read mostly at night [~9 pm], in the 30-60 minutes before i go to sleep. i do NOT read quickly and i go through novels and nonfiction books at a snail’s pace at times. i don’t like the pressure of having to finish by a certain date and therefore i do purchase a fair number of the books i read (rather than using the library). recently, i discovered the beauty of used books and i have also started using paperback swap (a GREAT way to clean out your bookshelf!).

sometimes i think about a kindle/nook — mainly for environmental reasons — but i’m not there yet. i love PAGES too much, and i love my current collection of books. i had no problem whatsoever ditching my CDs for digital music, but for some reason i’m clinging to real, old-fashioned books . . . at least for now.

when i put out a query for post-topic requests, J wrote:

so, I notice you read a lot – I really like the books I’ve seen you read and wondered if you could do a post on your reading journey? How does reading make you feel? What are the books that have had the most impression on you? Would be really cool to hear your childhood favourites too 🙂 Are you someone who always goes to the bookshop when you visit a new place/country? Do you love buying books? Do you have more books unread than read? What book has had the most impact on you?

so many great questions! i think i answered the first part of her question (above), but i thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite titles from childhood — both timeless and totally dated favorites that i read again and again and AGAIN while growing up.

here they come — i tried to find the original covers of the paperbacks i owned, for authenticity’s sake!

approximate age: 7

mrs. piggle wiggle by betty macdonald
i was a scatterbrained and messy second grader that was absolutely MESMERIZED by these fanciful tales of children who were magically transformed to fix their faults. mrs. piggle wiggle was a magical good-witch type who lived in an upside-down house, smelled like cookies, and turned messy boys into OCD-neat-freaks and hyperactive girls into slow-graceful-ballerina types. i still remember these stories a little too vividly, probably because i read the book probably 50 times.

(and now i want to make that 51!)

approximate age: 8

all-of-a-kind family by sidney taylor
i had actually forgotten about this wonderful book until gretchen rubin mentioned it in a recent post. just hearing the title brought back memories of this simple story about a family of five girls growing up in (? 1920s? 1930s?) new york city. they were devout orthodox jews, which fascinated me as totally exotic. and the 8-year-old was named sarah just like me! (spoiler: she got scarlet fever. and then they all did! but they all recovered — whew.)

approximate age: 10 (11, 12, 13, 14 . . .)

just as long as we’re together, by judy blume
if i read mrs. piggle wiggle 50 times, i probably read this coming-of-age tale about a 7th grader . . . 200. it was filled with the best kinds of drama, from body-image woes to best-friend-fights to school issues to a struggling set of parents. my sister was similarly obsessed, and this book was mysteriously passed back and forth between our bedrooms (you could often find the most popular paperbacks in our household lodged behind our beds).

approximate age: 11

this place has no atmosphere, by paula danziger
the year was 2057 and people were living on the moon. ON! THE! MOON! regular people, including a sullen teenager named aurora borealis williams (yes). i remember reading this on the floor while in FL visiting my grandparents. i know i’m gonig to be disappointed when 2057 comes around and we’re not living the lunar lifestyle that was advertised.

approximate age: 15
the bell jar, by sylvia plath
fast forward a few years, and i graduated from the YA section (at times!). when i was not busy reading sassy and YM magazines, i would wander down to my parents’ bookshelf in the basement and just see what i could find. i stumbled upon this book and (to my surprise) LOVED IT. esther’s troubles put my teen dramas into perspective, and this book was oddly comforting whenever i was in a particularly dark and brooding mood — and really, this was a fashionable mood to be in during the mid-90s, anyway. i was hooked from the first (awesome) line:

It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.

ahh. still fabulous.

approximate age: 17

zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance, by robert pirsig
this one was actually required reading in my 12th grade english class (i know . . . a little weird, right?) and most of the class hated it. i, on the other hand, found it captivating. i think this is one of the books that has had the most impact on me, perhaps in part because i read it at a pretty impressionable time. it was my first taste of the concepts of zen and mindfulness and the 17-year-old me was as captivated then as i am by these things today. i would love to go back and reread this to see how things resonate differently now.

so there you have it! a little chronological journey through my favorite books growing up. what were YOUR favorites? do any of you share some of these memories? please share – i promise, it will be fun to reminisce!

in considering J‘s questions, i started thinking about all of the great non-fiction books i’ve loved. look for that in an upcoming post!

february goals: quick recap
✔ track spending for the month of february i did do this! given that we went on a nice vacation and bought a giant TV, let’s just say i hope this month’s balance is not representative. it was still a useful exercise — i was a bit shocked (but not really surprised) about the total $ spent at whole foods, and pleasantly surprised that i did not blow my clothing allowance. i will do another sheet for march and continue using the excel-method for now, but with plans to potentially convert to another program in the future.

✔ work on embracing NOW, especially in regard to the TTC journey i think i had a sort of breakthrough when i wrote the post about waiting — since then, i have really been trying to consciously AVOID putting my life on hold for things that are beyond my control. i’m not all the way there yet, but i think the 40-day-revolution will continue to help with this as well.

✔ start new rules of lifting check! i’m on week 4 right now and have been steadily completing my 2 workouts/week. so far, i like the challenge and the workouts are still fairly fresh, so i’m going to continue.

✔ find more focus + flow at work by the end of my lab month, i was starting to get better about defining my daily goals and focusing my mind fully on each task. however, this goal is definitely still a work in progress! i think my new media management plan (email 3x/day max; purposeful internet use only) will help with this.

off to run! busy day at work today followed by a power yoga class. sounds lovely!



workout: 25 minutes elliptical (levels 9 – 11), NROL4W week 4, workout A, phase 1:
— 2 x 12 squats (bar + 20 lbs)
— 2 x 12 seated rows (47.5 lbs)
— 2 x 12 pushups
— 2 x 12 step-ups each leg (high bench, holding 10 lb weights)
— 2 x 12 plank-to-tucks on ball

clean eating mag + CSA = a match made in heaven. and apparently, so are collards, shrimp, and sausage! josh and i both really liked this dinner, and it was (bonus) super-easy. so easy, in fact, that i was able to prep TODAY’s dinner while i was making this one!

served with brown rice and hot sauce. recipe here!

40DR: i did a 20 minute baron baptiste flow after getting home and completed the 5 minute meditation x 2 again. yes, my thoughts wandered like crazy, but i am trying to not judge these sessions as ‘success’ or ‘failure’.

today’s excavation question:

what are your beliefs about:

— spirituality [do you believe in a higher power?]
— sex [what role does it play in your life? do you experience shame or joy around it? do you misuse it? do you see it as a vehicle for spiritual and emotional expression?]
— money [do you believe it is the root of all evil, or does it simply give you freedom to do what you want in life? do you have a lot of fear around making it or keeping it?]

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