Reading is one of my all-time favorite things to do in the world. I think a dream vacation for me would involve a large comfortable couch in a large room with floor to ceiling bookcases covered in all of the books I am dying to read still. Of course, in keeping with most of my fantasies, all 5 of my kids would be off in 100% completely safe boarding schools and the room I’m in would have 68 degree F air-conditioning setting that my husband would not be able to adjust. (He can wear that stack of sweaters over there in the corner.)
I have this burning desire to just go to any of the major book stores and fill an empty shopping cart with one copy each of all the classics that I haven’t read, Steinbeck, Hemingway, Dickens, and throw in some Shakespeare that I haven’t yet shared with my kids. (They LOVED MacBeth and Othello.) I don’t want to
buy Mark Twain because I have a huge collection of his books that I bought at a yard sale back in the early 90’s. It was a big paper bag full of books for $5. WHAT A FIND! I also got a copy of The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri, The Last Days of Pompeii by the baron Edward Bulwer-Lytto, and The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, and Six Famous French Novels. Those are all on yellowed paper with that slightly musty “old book” smell. I think that the French novels book was printed in 1903. Definitely worth the $5 spent, I’d say. Anyway, I’d also pick up copies of the more recent books by some of my favorite bloggers that I’ve been wanting to read, like Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson, Relative Insanity by Shauna Glenn, and the rest of Nuala Reilly’s Fayette series. (Of course, she has to finish the fourth book in order for me to get the full series, so, COME ON, NUALA! Get the lead out!)
Living in Alexandria, Egypt with five kids (who really AREN’T in or even likely to go to boarding schools) on a very fixed income, I don’t get to indulge in my reading addiction much. I occasionally cruise through the used book market on Nabi Daniel Street and come across some wonderful finds. (That’s where I found the Shakespeare in an English as a Foreign Language edition, aka edited beyond belief with a glossary so that my elementary kids would spark an interest.) Also, I’ve found some fascinating old hardbound books, some from authors I’d never heard of before. My favorite among them is by A.E.W. Mason, an English writer. The book I found The Dean’s Elbow is absolutely intriguing to me. It has some mystery, romance, scandalous relationships, and even historical technical information about the textile industry and perfecting dyes for fabrics. (It was printed in 1930, so don’t go reading it if you’re looking for 50 shades of crap.) My most recent find was a new copy of Agatha Christie’s The Man in the Brown Suit. I used to read Agatha Christie in 8th grade and throughout high school. I had kind of forgotten about her. You know until one of the Inspector Poirot movies would show up on television late in the afternoon. I found a stack of brand new (never been read anyway) Agatha Christie books I grabbed the stack…but after arguing with the bookseller over price, I ended up only buying the one. (Limited income, mind you….so I can go back and get another later. Maybe even trade back the one I just read, after the kids finish it.)
My reading “bucket list” has now become a “barrel list” and may soon turn into a “dump truck list.” But that’s okay. I know the answer would ordinarily be to order online but that gets costly when I end up paying more in customs taxes than the price of the book. It’s cool. I’m not really complaining. I look at it this way, I’m going to get that fantasy book vacation, God willing, when we move back to the U.S. My sisters both have substantial book collections that I could borrow from and the library is a fantastic place for kids and me to visit. While I kind of envy the book clubs that my friends are involved in, I think more I miss the access to public libraries. Really, guys! Take advantage of it this summer with your kids. While at first some of them may whine a bit, “But it’s summertime! I don’t want to read!” MAKE THEM. My kids all love the library. Even the one who hates to read (mostly because he has a few learning challenges.) Let them pick out the books…or give them a selection of some that you really dug in school that you think they may enjoy. I did this with Ismail when we were back in Texas a couple of years ago. I chose a few authors that I thought he may enjoy and he chose How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell. He thoroughly enjoyed it and the exercise of reading every other page with me, awakened his hunger for reading again.
I recently bought a membership at the American Cultural Center library here in Alexandria. Once I get a few mandatory errands out of the way that involve school registrations and dental appointments, I am planning to make a regular bi-monthly trip with the kids there so that they can once again “get their read on.” I have taken a couple of them to the Alexandria Library but I was so unhappy with the policies there that I swore I’d never go back. (One library is for kids to 12 yrs, one library is for kids 12-17 yrs, and the main library is 18 and up. Parents are not permitted to enter the kids library with their kids and kids are not permitted with their parents into the adult library. Also they have a sign that states the library is not responsible for kids while not with their parents?????? WTH????)
So I’m hoping that my children will bring their English reading levels up to as high as they are in Arabic this Summer. It’s all about the brain-food. And no. I’m STILL not talking about zombies!