Several months ago, during the winter (seems so long ago as I write in the early morning hours of what will prove to be another 100+ degree day), I sat with my girlfriend, and we both quietly read our Facebook walls. I stumbled upon a lovely essay called “Date a Girl Who Reads,” and I found it applicable enough to my own life that I read it out loud to Amanda. Maybe I hoped to show her some part of myself, a consensus of my readerly personality. Perhaps it was a warning. Or a promise. She had not seen the reader me yet – but that day was coming.
Amanda and I went to the beach together in May, a getaway that we both needed. When I go to the beach, I like to lay in the sun, read, and fall asleep. And when I wake up, I like to turn over, read more, and fall asleep again. I had these big plans for reading on the beach. Did I do it? No. I lay there and chatted with Amanda. We watched crabs scuttle around us, sparring with each other for mounds of sand to hide in and behind. We stared out into the ocean and watched dolphins crest in the deeper waters. We dozed. But there was no reading.
I have always been a girl who reads. My mom bought me Sweet Valley Kids books when I was little, and from there, the habit grew. I remember one of the periods of time when we were attending church regularly as a child. I found church so boring. (I was eight. I wasn’t the pastor’s target audience.) My mom had recently bought me a copy of Alice in Wonderland, so when the sermon started, I concealed the book behind my Bible and read about Alice’s adventures down the rabbit hole until my mom noticed and told me to put the book down and pay attention.
There is one quote from “Date A Girl Who Reads” that I felt particularly compelled to share with Amanda, so she would understand what was coming:
When you find her up at 2 AM clutching a book to her chest and weeping, make her a cup of tea and hold her. You may lose her for a couple of hours but she will always come back to you. She’ll talk as if the characters in the book are real, because for a while, they always are.
I can recall books in which this has happened, usually in the final fifty pages: The Joy Luck Club; Gone with the Wind; The Time Traveler’s Wife. I can add to this list, now, Keeping the Feast by Paula Butturini. She didn’t even wait until the end of the book to make me weep profusely; she got me in the middle. Yesterday, as I read about the painful period she was going through, one occurrence happened that knocked the wind out of me. And before I knew it, I was curled up in my bed, a tight little ball of girl, crying as if it was happening to me and not the author.
I recounted the story to Amanda later. Perhaps in a continued effort to warn her that I am a girl who reads. I know she knows this; she’s seen me read often. There’s always a book in my purse, and if I’m given ten minutes to wait for her to do something before we can leave the house or watch TV, I will pull out my book and read quietly, curled up with the cat in my lap. But I want her to know the full implications of these readerly habits: I’m a girl who willingly suspends disbelief, who falls in love with characters, who can’t sleep at night, wanting to read more even though my eyes are so tired. If there’s 100 pages left at 10:00 at night, I might just go for it. Those are likely the books that will leave me weeping at midnight over the final pages. I’m a girl who reads.
What books have made you stay up past bedtime or cry your literary eyes out?