When I was a little girl I read all the time. I read through the summers, lying on my bed with the curtains closed while other kids played outside. Sometimes I would play too, but more often than not I was reading. I read all the Enid Blytons, then all the Nancy Drews, then Agatha Christie murder mysteries. In my early teens I loved a good murder mystery. Then I went to university and studied English Lit. and I kind of stopped reading for fun. I enjoyed reading for uni, I loved (and still love) Shakespeare, Victorian literature, and modern American poetry. After I left Ireland and especially when I was backpacking a lot, I read a lot too. We passed books around in the flat we shared in Sydney, Australia. A friend introduced me to Tom Robbins and a battered copy of Jitterbug Perfume became a symbol of a special time in our lives. However, since I started graduate work I have read very little. Embarrassingly little. My bookshelves are occupied by four broad kinds of books: reading for my thesis and other academic pursuits; my husband’s books; my kids’ books; books given or loaned to me. The last are nearly all unread (at least by me). There are one or two books sprinkled around the house that I actually have read. There are some parenting books in the drawer of my bedside table. There are a few guiltily-concealed ‘chick lit’ novels around too. But since I’ve been in Calgary I’ve been (apart from the first year) doing this blasted doctorate and I have hardly read for fun at all. Most of my fun reading seems to take place online. I read personal blogs: lifestyle blogs, ‘mommy blogs’, feminist blogs, blog-critique forums, celebrity gossip blogs. Most of this is at least partially in the name of research, or at least I can write it off in this way (like a businessperson writing off a lunch with a friend as a ‘meeting’). However, to be honest, it really bothers me that I don’t read any more and I think it shows in my own writing. Sometimes I wonder if part of the reason that I am struggling so much to write my thesis is that I am not reading enough. I’m also an enormous hypocrite – I have told so many students who were having trouble with writing to make sure that they are reading, and I haven’t been smart enough to take my own advice. I put it down to a lack of time but I spend hours and hours reading blogs. Even if that is ‘research’, I can surely cut back by half and use that time on some literature.
So, with this in mind, I started a book club. We haven’t met yet but we have chosen our first book (Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie). It is to be a ‘feminist book club’, and I am pretty jazzed to have the chance to sit around and talk about feminism and books and feminist books and life with a bunch of women. I am also glad to give myself a kick in the arse to start reading again. I miss it. I miss the freedom of it. It is a window out of myself. I’m not sure what it has to do with getting my thesis done but it’s been on my mind and I wanted to write about it. I guess I hope I can become a better (and, faster!) writer.