Are You What You Read?

And what’s up with the people who don’t?

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You read.

That’s why you’re here. To consume the words of others and use it. Use them and what they say. But are you what you read?

I would never deign to carry, let alone read, a romance novel. To me it seemed a waste of time, but I understand why women and some men devour those books. They want to feel love, arousal, desire and maybe they want to be swept up in a romance larger than they’ve felt or witnessed.

I am living a romance with my husband, and I’ve almost always felt we have a unique bond. We love passionately, we give freely, and I’m learning to show more of my admiration for him, to him. I do tend toward stoicism, and I need to become effusive. Well, I want to do so.

Anyway, the reading thing. My mother is a voracious reader, and since she was frequently sick and at home in the 1940s and 1950s (she missed half years of school and made it on scholarship to Penn State University, so she is incredibly intelligent), so my mom read. She worked as an editor for engineers, so mom even reads technical booklets. Mom reads everything.

What strikes me now years later is her pride in my reading at three. How I’d choose to stay inside on my bed with all the windows open while the spring breeze blew in, and I’d read. Anything. Nancy Drew. The Exorcist. Judy Blume. King Lear. I was in 4th grade through 6th grade in that house.

Mom loved it when I read Tolkien and fell for his world, and after tackling The Silmarillion she smiled with pride. I walked around high school carrying my books for class like Statistics, but I’d have three novels on top that I read any moment I had a chnace. The Dune series? Mom was impressed. But I gave up on fantasy and moved onto different genres.

We do that. Readers. We branch out and try new stories on. Are you compelled to finish any book you start? Do you give up 100 pages into a novel? I was so exhausted by the last A Song of Ice and Fire book, that I left the last 100 pages alone. Unread.

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Am I a reading failure for making through five 1000 page books only to succumb to numbness and feeling like the story lost itself somewhere in that last book of Martin’s?

I don’t think we are what we read. I think we read what we do not have, what we don’t experience. I just read a mystery, The Paris Apartment, and I learned how to say the French words, but I’ll never speak French well. But I think the life of a chic Parisienne is fascinating.

I’m devouring books on Scotland, because we’re going there for two weeks. I read up on places I go. I just found a book today, Folly Beach, and that is exactly where my family vacations together, so I plan on taking it as my summer beach read. Wine, sand and books.

I want to re-read Romeo and Juliet. I want to get back into theology, since God is incredibly, wonderfully interesting to me. Then there are the magazines. Bazaar. Vogue. Victoria. The UK Country Living. Hello. Majesty and more, because I read up on the British royals as if I’m some faded English rose delving into the lives of people I will never become.

Don’t we flip the pages of biographies to see what others are like? Why? To learn from them, since their perspective is not our own?

I do think mindless reading is fine for a time, but we should come back to books, articles or plays that make us think. Hard. That tilt our world.

Read the meaty stories. True and fiction. I think we take journeys with the ones who write for us. I still remember The Prince of Tides and how it struck me years ago. Powerful? Hell, yeah. We can become someone else by ducking into a book. I believe sometimes we change due to the book we poured into ourselves.

That’s part of why we read. To learn. To experience newness. To try on other people, places, and times.

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Keep reading. Books are one thing that possesses the possibility of uniting us.

I think I’ll give my mom a call. What she reads is usually a mind trip, since she delves into all sorts of books. I still feel that pull of wanting her to feel proud and bemused by my reading choices. Weird, huh?

Those who don’t read are missing out, but then we’re not all alike, are we? I like this group in the world. Those of us who love words and stories. It feels like we belong to one huge book club, and when we spy one another reading in public, we smile and head home to fill our own heads with stories.

Happy reading all!

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Deanna Eppers

Musician, ex-CPA at KPMG Peat Marwick, volunteer, decorator, renovating another house, mom to three, wife to one, blogs about finding happiness