Monday, July 29, 2013

In Which I Finish My Summer Required Reading


A Cautionary Tale

"We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us." 
---Joseph Campbell


What killed these two books for me? Why am I not prattling on and on about the amazing-ness of these two novels? 

I've had a hankering for Cloud Atlas and East of Eden for months. Both books have been teacher's pets of not only critics but some of my favorite book bloggers right out of the starting gate.

So what happened? Why am I dejectedly feeling meh about the two books I designated in early June as my summer reads, the two books I devoted the last two months to reading?

It's me. It's my own fault. 

Something dies in a book when you force yourself to read it.

I should have known. It happened to me in 2011. In January, I optimistically announce that War and Peace is my goal for the year. I trudge through three hundred of the thousand pages before I finally acknowledge that (1) I have no idea what is going on in the plot and (2) I don't care about the characters. I am a grownup, I remind myself; nobody's making me eat beets and I close the book. 

I wish I'd done that with these two books. I wish I'd closed the books when I first started to dread picking them up. I wish I'd set the books back under the bed until I felt real book desire for these two again. It should have been hot summer evenings in my rocker on the front porch, plunging through the pages,  I adore you, You're the love of my life, We were made for each other. Instead it was waking up each morning to face the same two old heavy books still weighing down my nightstand, I think we need space, We have to talk, You've lost that lovin' feelin', inching through the books, strong-arming myself to stick with it for the kids long past the time it should have been Splitsville.

A cautionary tale. A cautionary tale for all of us teachers and librarians who so yearn to push our book loves on others that we try to marry young readers off to books before they've even shared a good night kiss. A cautionary tale.



WHAT I FINISHED THIS WEEK:




Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell





East of Eden by John Steinbeck






Any reading disasters for you this week? Any happy stories?



It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is where we share what we read this past week, what we hope to read this week…. and anything in between!  This is a great way to plan out your reading week and see what others are currently reading as well… you never know where that next “must read” book will come from! I love being a part of this and I hope you do too! As part of this weekly meme Book Journey loves to encourage you all to go and visit the others participating in this meme. 

29 comments:

  1. Goodness, I started reading East of Eden several years ago but blech...it is still unfinished. I've always wanted to read a few classics because they weren't pushed on us growing up. But, I'm not sure if that I will read them yet. Saturday I finished Beautiful Day by Elin Hilderbrand (LOVE her stuff.) Reading Bad Monkey - Carl Hiaasen (for my book club) and Married Lovers by Jackie Collins (an audio book given in a huge sack from a friend that I am not enjoying really.) So that's what's on my list lately...Carla

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  2. It is terrible when that happens with a book, but to have two at once! Catastrophe! It happened to me recently too with Nicholas- I wanted to give up but couldn't. Sorry you didn't like Cloud Atlas, I read it quite a number of years ago, but remember being confused initially, but then really liking it.

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  3. Both East of Eden and Cloud Atlas were beautifully written books. I ruined them for myself by forcing myself to read through them as fast as possible.

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  4. I am making a public promise to never force myself to read another book again.

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  5. Those assigned readings in school! Ouch for the kiddies! I would not have loved A Tale of Two Cities, though, if we had not gone through it in school with such deliberate care, reading carefully and slowly, no rushing, and had such an outstanding teacher.

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  6. I've never read either book and give you a lot of credit for doing so.

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  7. That's what I thought I was going to do, Harvee. Nope. I tried to hurry through not one, but two, big books. Big mistake.

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  8. I made a mistake when I tried to force myself to read these. I wish I hadn't tried to do too much this summer.

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  9. Ugh. I know that feeling. Reading a book is like having a relationship, isn't it? Somewhere along the line you just *know* whether it's working or not. I'm sorry you didn't like East of Eden! It's one of my favorites. Cloud Atlas is also on my TBR shelf, but I'm in no hurry to get to it.

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  10. It's odd, Trish. I loved the books. In a way. I saw the amazing word choices and the big themes. But I didn't relish them like I wish I had. And that spoiled everything.

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  11. I had a 7 or 8-ish year saga with Don DeLillo's Underworld and the finish was so anti-climactic (no pun intended). The book was great, but the experience had been so drawn out I was just so over reading it that the experience was tarnished.

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  12. The same thing often happens to me too. Sometimes we just have to throw our required reading lists away and just enjoy something entirely different.

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  13. But YAY you made it... I would not start these ;)

    Hope your upcoming books are more of a pleasure :)

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  14. Oh, dear. I almost started East of Eden a few weeks ago, but set it aside for some YA fiction and fluff. It's been on my nightstand for years and I thought it would make a great summer read. I loved The Grapes of Wrath when I read it in high school (many, many years ago!) and have had high hopes for East of Eden. Guess we'll see, won't we?

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  15. This issue of forcing oneself to read a certain book: it happened to me last year, especially in November & December when I felt I had to complete several (63!) reading challenges that I had taken on.

    By January, I thought that I had put myself off reading forever. Truly, for the first time in my life, I didn't want to read.

    This year: I committed to none. I'm enjoying my reading ever so much more - and isn't that what it's about? ;-)

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  16. This is why I always hated required reading in school. I don't like being forced to read a book - especially given a time limit. Or: Read the first hundred pages by Friday and find five examples of irony - no thanks!

    Sorry these books were ruined for you. Maybe you could try rereading them again in a few years?

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  17. I cannot imagine reading on a book for seven or eight years, Christine. Though I was afraid that might happen with these two books.

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  18. Yes, thanks for the support, Natasha. I'm hereby throwing away my required reading list.

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  19. Yes, Ciska, I suppose I should look at the bright side...even though it was a struggle every day to read a little more, I did finish both of these.

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  20. Les, I hope I haven't put you off East of Eden. It was not the book's fault. I hoped to put people off the way I read. I feel confident you will read East of Eden in a relaxed, friendly way and it will be a book you will love.

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  21. Oh my gosh, Debbie! That's an awful tale. Sixty-three reading challenges?! Crazy! So glad you found your way back to books.

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  22. Oh, no!! Cloud Atlas scares me to death and I have no desire to read it, but East of Eden is an all-time favorite.

    I really thing the whole tone of reading changes when a book is 'required'. Hope you enjoy the rest of your summer books.

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  23. Don't blame yourself. I read Cloud Atlas last year and it was one of the worst books I've read in years. And if East was anything like Grapes, that was probably bad too. I read forced books all the time for my book club and most if them I really enjoy, so that really isn't necessarily the problem. I say give yourself a break and with your next book, treat yourself. Read a known quantity: an author you love or reread an old fav, to wash the taste out of your mouth.

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  24. Thanks, Carin. I will do that. I wonder if this would be considered a reason for a sick day.

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  25. This happens to me all the time! When I feel obligated to finish a book, I tend end to like it less. That's why I'm basically worthless on readalongs.

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  26. >Something dies in a book when you force yourself to read it.

    Ain't that the truth! This is the primary reason why I so often fail to finish reading challenges.

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  27. I hear ya! That's why I don't accept too many review books. When they start stacking up I have no desire to read them!

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  28. I hope I remember this next time I assign myself a book!

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