My niece, who lives in North Carolina, turned nine just a few months ago. I sent her a hardbound copy of the book Charlotte’s Web for her birthday.
I also gave her something even more special – the love of reading.
You see, along with that book came a promise. A promise that we would get together by phone every Sunday night at 5 o’clock and discuss a book that we would read together.
At first I wasn’t sure if she would enjoy this long-distance, telephonic book group. After all she’s quite literally from another generation. Asking me when I’m going to get a webcam…calling to tell me about how many points she’s wracked up on the Webkins website…pleading with me for more accessories for her I-Dog…and asking if I know this new song that she downloaded to her MP3-player.
Still, I was looking forward to our first meeting. As a kid, I always had my nose in a book (still do), but I don’t remember ever reading Charlotte’s Web, so I thought it would be a journey of discovery for both of us. Boy, was I right!
I was horrified to learn on page one that Mr. Arable had plans to slaughter old Wilbur the pig because he was the runt of the litter. Not knowing anything about kids, I was sure that our first book discussion was doomed to failure and that I had scarred my niece for life. When I called her that Sunday I asked if she was afraid of the story. “Oh no Auntie Debbie” she assured me “where do you think bacon comes from?” So much for her naiveté and youthful sensibilities!
After Charlotte’s Web we read Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney, a book she selected. It had us both cracking up out loud, and sharing our own grade school nightmares. Next on the agenda is a Nancy Drew mystery.
I’ve learned a lot about my niece from these book group meetings. Sure we discuss the story, but just like at my own adult monthly book club, we also end up talking about our own lives — our troubles and triumphs. How lucky I am to have this experience with my niece, and how satisfying it is for me that reading – something I’ve always enjoyed so much – has brought us together in this special way.
As Walt Disney once said, “There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island.”
Lazy summer afternoons by the pool always lend themselves to a good read. Here are some of my personal favorites for the “over-9-set” that have found their way to my bookshelf. I hope you find someone to share these with.
Favorites from My Bookshelf
The Pull of the Moon, by Elizabeth Berg – A good fiction writer can weave a story that feels so true it moves the reader…sometime to laugher…sometime to tears. I had tears in my eyes reading much of this book about Nan’s journey away from home and back again.
A Walk on the Beach, by Joan Anderson – Tales of wisdom from an unconventional woman. Anderson has turned her year of introspection into a cottage industry. I’m not going to rush out and sign up for any of her seminars, but I am eager to take a trip to Chatham to see the seals, even if it doesn’t change my life the way it did hers.
Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert – the newest release on this list. I had feared it was going to be too “crunchy granola” for my taste, but that wasn’t the case at all. Gilbert chronicles her travels through Italy, India and Bali. If you’re a travel aficionado, a foodie, or just in want of some adventure, let Gilbert sweep you away.
Chocolat, by Joanne Harris – I read this book upon my return home from France in hopes that it would make the magic last a little longer. It did! You may have already seen the movie, but don’t miss the book. The story of Vianne Rocher is a 21st century fairy tale for today’s woman sans the Prince Charming.
The Bitch in the House – 26 women tell the truth about sex, solitude, work, motherhood and marriage. Yes, I guess you could say that they’re essays, but they are infinitely readable. If you like Oprah Winfrey or Betty Friedan…believe in girl power…or were just born female, you’ll find something to like in this book.
When Did I Stop Being 20 and Other Injustices, by Judith Viorst – I’ve recently rediscovered this book which was given to me originally by a friend when I was in college. Any woman in her 40’s will think this is a hoot! It’s a quick read. Warning: As much as I love this one, don’t bother with the rest in the series like “How Did I get to be 40 and other atrocities,” they’re a disappointment.
100 Selected Poems, by e e cummings – The man who quotes Cummings to me is the man who will win my soul. If you like Bob Dylan, there’s something about Cummings I think you’ll like too.
Nine Stories, by J.D. Salinger — Sure you read Catcher in the Rye in high school, but what else of Salinger’s have you read? I go back to this little collection over and over again. I never get tired of them, yet I still can’t pick a favorite. From “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” to “For Esme – with Love and Squalor” they’re all heartbreakingly fantastic.