For the past few years, all of my reading has been for the purpose of research. I read pedagogical teaching texts or young adult lit almost exclusively, and when I branched out from that, it was to read complex books that I thought I might use to challenge my students to use for craft examples in class. I read only as a teacher, and not as a reader. In 2015, I’m determined not to do that.
Ten days ago, I was in London, England. Pretty much every moment of every day since then has been spent either reliving a magical moment there, or frantically trying to catch up with everything I fell behind on here in real life.
Much of that trip of a lifetime was spent flitting around different literary sights in London. My husband and I had a beer at The Plough, the famed pub of Dickens, Woolf, and Darwin. We visited Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey and saw graves of and memorials to my heroes Jane Austen, William Shakespeare, C.S. Lewis, and more. We enjoyed a visit to the home of the most famous fictional character in England, Sherlock Holmes. The Globe Theatre, The British Library, Southbank Book Market…we saw it all. Awash in the history of English literature, my trip made me desperately want to revisit much of it. I can’t think of the last time I read a classic for pleasure. So, I made my first reading resolution for 2015: read my roots. My degree is in literature, but I’ve missed out on a lot of its classics–probably because they were assigned as boring whole-class novels and I knew about SparkNotes, but I digress.
So, I knew I wanted to read some classics for fun. But I also wanted to make sure I read lighter, easier things too, for a different kind of escapist fun. I got curious about bestsellers I’d never bothered exploring…Janet Evanovich. James Patterson. Sue Grafton. I’ve never read any of their books, but millions of others have. So, that’s another resolution–read my age. I’m a 27-year-old female lover of mysteries, and I’ve never cracked the spine of an Agatha Christie! So much of my reading life is focused on the 11th graders in my classroom, but I need to read my age, too. I want to read what everyone is reading and talking about–all of the New York Times bestsellers, not just the Young Adult list.
Heaven in Outer Banks
My last resolution is to relax and read. I recently read an article about a woman deciding not to participate in the GoodReads Reading Challenge because she felt like it stressed her out and diminished her intrinsic love of reading. The comments were overwhelmingly negative and unsympathetic, but I found myself in complete agreement with her! I was always “behind schedule” on the challenge, always feeling like I couldn’t take the time to read anything massive like The Goldfinch or pondering like The Poisonwood Bible or immersive like Will in the World. Those books would take me way too long to read, and how was I supposed to find new things to booktalk for my students then?! Well, I’m done with that. I want to return to the days of my vacation in North Carolina last summer, where it rained for seven days straight and all I did was read. It was the perfect beach vacation.
My selfish to-read list
2015 is my year to stop feeling guilt, obligation, or stress about books. Yes, reading saves lives, changes the world, and creates empowered, literate citizens, but that’s not why people read. And that’s not why I try to get kids to become readers. Reading is an exercise in imagination, in escape, in adventure. It’s joy and pleasure and heartbreak. It’s empathy and knowledge and understanding. I’ve been so busy trying to teach that that I’ve forgotten it myself. This year, my resolution is to remember that. What’s yours?
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