Why I Read

I bought myself a present. The print you see in the above picture created by one of my favorite novelists, Katherine Center.

I love this quote, because I agree whole-heartedly.

There are so many reasons to read. And those are the same reasons I write.

This week, I thought I’d take inspiration from Ms. Center and share a book I have read for each of these statements.

Read for Fun.

This one is easy. I recently finished Abbi Waxman’s The Bookish Life of Nina Hill. The pages flew by as I read this fun, delightful novel. And now I want to read more of Abbi Waxman’s books.

Read for Pleasure.

Beach Read by Emily Henry was pure pleasure. Just one of those novels I disappeared into and stayed up later than I probably should have just to read one more chapter.

Read for Comfort.

A disclaimer – one of my essays is published in The Things We Don’t Say: An Anthology of Chronic Illness Truths. What most strikes me about this valuable anthology is the universality of the feelings written about. The medical conditions may be different, but the emotions are the same. And it is so comforting to know there are others out there who “get it.”

Read for Wisdom.

Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird may be one of the most popular books about writing. It’s a book I have read multiple times, and each time I find some new nugget, something that strikes my fancy and warrants a sticky note. 

Read for Insight.

Michelle Obama’s Becoming. Honest, moving, inspiring. And what makes it even more special is that one of my best friends gave me this book about one of the best role models out there. 

Read for Hope.

I discovered Danea Horn’s Chronic Resilience: 10 Sanity-Saving Strategies for Women Coping with Stress of Illness in what can only be described as an act of serendipity. I have read this important book more than once. It is a book that I highly recommend to anyone living with a chronic illness.

Read for Adventure.

Scott Kelly’s memoir, Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery is a true tale of adventure. It’s highly unlikely I’ll travel into space, let alone live onboard the International Space Station for one year. Yet, by reading Mr. Kelly’s memoir I could get a sense of what it would be like to be that far away from planet Earth.

Read for Laughs.

Matilda by Roald Dahl has a special place in my heart. I always read it to my fourth graders – a little bit after lunch each day. Once we finished the novel, we’d watch the Danny DeVito film. (A touching side note – my students thought I resembled Miss Honey. I took it as a sweet compliment.) And I’m so glad my son enjoys it too. We’ve read this book many times. And we laugh at all the same parts.

Read for Possibilities.

Kicking in the Wall: A Year of Writing Exercises, Prompts, and Quotes to Help You Break Through Your Blocks and Reach Your Writing Goals by Barbara Abercrombie should be on every writer’s desk. So many great prompts to use for 5-minute writing exercises. And I never know when I start writing which of those prompts, which of those “exercises,” will actually be the seed for a whole new essay.

Read for Joy.

There is a new edition out, with a beautiful cover, for Katherine Center’s Everyone is Beautiful. It was the first novel I read by Ms. Center. It was one of the few books I can say had me hooked from the first sentence. And I knew after reading this book, I would read everything and anything else this author wrote. 

Stop Asking Kids This Unnecessary Question

Do you remember what you said when people used to ask you, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

For many years of my childhood, I always answered the same way.

“Astronaut.”

Now, people (friends, neighbors, grocery store clerks) ask my eleven-year-old son.  

Sometimes Ryan’s answer resembles a long list of dream jobs.  He rattles them off, one after the other.  “Doctor.  Firefighter.  Astronaut.  Basketball Player.  Singer.”

Other times, Ryan narrows it down to one career.  “Professional singer” or “NBA Player.”

I’m in the middle of Michelle Obama’s riveting memoir Becoming.  A friend of mine gifted it to me at Christmas, but I have put off reading it.  I savored the idea of the book.  I wanted to prolong the joy and inspiration I felt certain this book would bring.

And I was right.

Because from the get-go, the first page of the preface in fact, Michelle Obama nailed it.  

“Now I think it’s one of the most useless questions an adult can ask a child – What do you want to be when you grow up?  As if growing up is finite.  As if at some point you become something and that’s the end.”

Every chance I get, I remind Ryan that he doesn’t have to choose one career. 

I remind him that former President Obama was also a lawyer and a Grammy-winning author. 

I remind him that former First Lady Michelle Obama held many roles.  In her words:  “I’ve been a lawyer.  I’ve been a vice president at a hospital and the director of a nonprofit that helps young people build meaningful careers.  I’ve been a working-class black student at a fancy mostly white college.”

During high school, I got tired of the question.  When asked what I wanted to be, I simply answered, “Happy.”  And I enjoyed a twelve-year teaching career.

Whatever path Ryan chooses, whatever bends or forks in the road that he must navigate, I hope he adds “happy” to the list of all he’ll become.

 

Just For Fun:

And because I love Michelle Obama, think she’s a fantastic role model and a fun lady, let me share three of our favorite YouTube videos featuring Michelle Obama and Jimmy Fallon in case you haven’t seen them.  And even if you have seen them, they’re always fun to watch again.  

In this video, Jimmy Fallon and Michelle Obama demonstrate the “evolution of mom dancing.”

This is part 2 of the “evolution of mom dancing.”

And this one, from December 2018, features Michelle Obama and Jimmy Fallon surprising visitors in 30 Rock elevators.