December 16, 2012

Motherlode: It's so easy to be remiss on the reading front

By KJ DELL'ANTONIA

I possess three of the books on the The New York Times Notable Books List, in hard copy, with intent to read.

Another I read excerpted in so many places that I didn't feel as if I needed to read the actual book. One is on my Kindle app, but honesty requires that I admit I am never going to finish it.

I'm partway through two more and uncertain if and when I will go on (which probably means I won't). There are seven more on my to-read list. Another I bought, tried, then set aside after a few chapters.

Which means that of The New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2012, I have read, in their entirety, exactly zero.

I read a lot less since I had children. Or maybe since I grew up and found myself with a job and other obligations, or maybe since the advent of all the many distractions and must-reads available on my desktop, laptop and iPad.

Where once I gobbled a book nearly every day, reading while in line for concerts and college basketball games, reading and missing all the scenery on cross-country car and train trips. Now I read a little every night, a little some evenings in the intervals of helping children with homework and making dinner, a little when I can sit down on the weekend, and a lot on every plane ride or vacation. All of which means I just don't rack up the books the way I once did.

I miss the feeling of being "lost in a book," and it's harder to get it back with every passing year. I'm uncertain why that is -- am I out of practice? More critical of fiction, and so less able to be absorbed? More distracted in general, by both the swirling family life around me and life online? I read more when I had nursing infants, and less -- much less -- in their crazy toddler years.

This year felt to me like a return to reading, of a sort -- for the first time, it's become possible to read, although usually not deeply when all four of my children (6, 7, 8 and 11 years old) are home and awake. My hope is that reading is returning to my life.

What books did I read, and love, this year? "Wild" by Cheryl Strayed. "Daring Greatly" by Brene Brown. "Aftermath" by Rachel Cusk (although her voice is so strong, and her prose so packed, that I can't read it before bed, and thus I haven't finished yet). "Shadow of Night" by Deborah Harkness.

Two books by Motherlode contributors have stuck with me: Joel Yanofsky's "Bad Animals" and Karen le Billon's "French Kids Eat Everything." I continue to reread and refer back to Madeline Levine's "Teach Your Children Well." And I was so disturbed and provoked by Augusten Burroughs' "This is How: Help for the Self," that I read bits aloud to my husband, who then took it and read parts of it himself, and some of it even back to me. That's a first, which makes "This is How" a notable book in my mind, if not exactly a beloved one. (The only other book we both read this year, at least in part, was Daniel Kahneman's "Thinking, Fast and Slow," a New York Times Notable Book of 2011.

What's your NYT Notables score (and who are we kidding, some of us do keep score) in the "read it," "want to read it" and "didn't finish it" categories, and what other books did you love this year? And how has becoming a parent left its mark on your reading time?

Contact KJ Dell-Antonia at:

kj.dellantonia@nytimes.com

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