Read it again

Do you re-read books?

I do. I read them over and over, or at least selected portions of books over and over. My son is learning to read, and it is a wonderful process. On the way home, he asked me what this spells:

T. O. B. A. C. C. O.

Tobacco, I answered.

What’s that?

It’s what they use to make cigarettes. They sell cigarettes there [he’s staring intensely at a stand-alone kiosk/drive-through place on a street corner].

They DO?! he stretches, turning around to scope the place out.

Where else do they sell cigarettes, Mom?

Um, I guess gas stations.

Like SHELL?

[Really?] I think.

Do we take oil from SHELL, Mom?

Pause.

I insert a couple of sentences about how we know not to smoke cigarettes because they can make you sick and generally aren’t very good for you.

But I know how to wash your lungs, Mom.

How?

Just drink lots of water.

Sometimes the conversations I have with my children amaze me. They are lifted directly from their surroundings, physical, emotional, visual, scented and filled with air, dirt and love. The boys play with rocks and invite ants to crawl on their hands.

One of these days I’ll purchase over 1,000 [!] ladybugs to release in our garden. To my eldest child’s delight, we also intend to buy a live praying mantis to go after any leaf hoppers, aphids or other pests in the garden.

What a creepy insect. It looks like a twisted, tiny version of E.T. and the female bites the head off her male partner after they, ahem, consummate their relationship. But my son read a book about organic gardening and here I am calling up nurseries to check on their helpful insect supply.

Back to books. Right.

These are the ones that I turn to repeatedly. Especially at the end of a long day, turning to the words of familiar story is like coming home.

Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. It was enchanting the first time I read it – I was perhaps nine or ten – and it only got better as I explored the world of Charles Wallace, his family and his star-turned-angel friends. 

The English Patient by Michael Ondaajte. Read this twice while I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Dominican Republic. Its pages are well, well worn. A mystery, a tragedy, and a war compel an unusual combination of people to fall in love and share a home. 

The Magicians by Lev Grossman. Published just three years ago, this is the best example of high quality urban fantasy that I have ever read. The sequel was a tad disappointing, but this book is unbelievably good. The magic in this story is dark and dangerous, and the characters will endear themselves to you — if you like antagonistic, narcissistic, depressed teenagers who are painfully transitioning into young adults.

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. I read this as a high school student and remember laughing at the somewhat antiquated, stilted language that pen put to paper in 1958. Today I recognize the significance of this tremendous story that describes the impact of colonialism on traditional African society. It is brilliant, heart breaking, and relevant today.

House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende. The magical, beautiful, political story of the del Valle family is set in South America This novel is illustrative of Allende’s best work in magical realism. She makes me want to be a writer. I’ve read in numerous times in English and once or twice in Spanish. 

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. Since giving birth to two curious monkeys boys, I understand the brilliance of this book depicting a rebellious young boy and his wish to control his world. 

Almost everything I’ve read by Ann Patchett, but mostly Truth & Beauty and Bel Canto.

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. The life of a child as he moves from young to middle to old, and older, and his relationship with a tree, and unconditional love. It makes me sad. I still own the copy I was given by my aunt and uncle on my First Communion. 

This list is just a tease, but these are my go-to and go-back-to favorites. 

What are you reading these days, readers? 

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