Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Reading Woes

What happened to all the good books? I've grown weary of adult literature.  I haven't purely enjoyed a book in a long time.  I've read lots of books that are well written, that are interesting, that I learn things from, that provoke thinking...but nothing truly engaging, if you know what I mean.  Nothing that makes me want to immerse myself in the world of the book the way I felt about stories from my childhood.  Is it impossible for a book you read as an adult to stir those same emotions just because we are adults?  I hope not.  Where oh where is a book that makes me want to discover wild violets in a buffalo wallow on the Dakota Prairie with Laura?  To constantly write my thoughts in a notebook and drink a real New York Egg Cream with Harriet?  To clomp down Klickitat Street on coffee can stilts with Ramona?  To live in a lake front high rise and solve a mystery with Turtle?  To belly crawl across the Alaskan tundra hunting for food with Julie?

I've looked for fun and frivolity in adult fiction.  I've read Bridget Jones's Diary.  I've read the Shopaholic books.  I've probably read all of the British chick lit my libraries have to offer.  It is fun.  But it doesn't make me want to live like those women. 

I've looked for community and coziness in adult fiction.  I've read the Mitford books and enjoyed them tremendously.  But I don't want to live in Mitford. 

I've looked for adventure and richness of place in adult literature.  I like reading escapist travel books like "A Year in Provence" and "Under the Tuscan Sun", but the authors of those books don't live as characters that come to feel like friends in my mind. 

I'm guess I'm just nostalgic.  It must be like Meg Ryan's character Kathleen says in "You've Got Mail" - "I started helping my mother here after school when I was six years old. I used to watch her, and it wasn't that she was selling books, it was that she was helping people become whoever they were going to turn out to be. When you read a book as a child it becomes part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your life does."

I am so grateful for the great books I read as a child.  So grateful for the funny and smart and sympathetic authors who thought to write them.  I'm hopeful it's still possible to find books like that as an adult.   My search for new books to call friends continues. 


Rachel said...

Have you read These is my Words? It's that kind of book. I finished it a few weeks ago and am still thinking about it.

Laura said...

Rachel - I LOVED These is my Words! My mom gave it to me several years ago, and I've read it a couple of times. There's also a sequel to it called Sarah's Quilt. I actually just went to look up the author and found there's a third installment. I'm going to get it right now! The author is Nancy E. Turner. Wendy, I'm not sure if anything will ever come close to the feeling of reading the Little House books, but this has that same sort of frontier feel, but from an adult perspective. I would recommend it.

Wendy said...

I found Sarah's Quilt at the library several weeks ago and read it because I'd heard of These Is My Words, although I haven't read that one. It was good...but it doesn't spark the same "I wish I knew these people and lived in their world" feeling that I miss. Mostly I was just very glad I didn't have to live on an Arizona ranch way back then. I admired the main character, but I didn't necessarily want to be best friends with her. You know? I'm just looking for that kind of connection.

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The Realistic Optimist said...

To some degree, I have suffered the same nostalgia that you describe. I think part of it is just growing up. Sad to say, but pizza never tastes as good as it did when I was six and the elephants at the zoo will never be so impressive. I think this is similar. To some degree, the ability to completely let go of reality has diminished over time. That said, however, I have come close in the recent past with the the following books:

The Pillars of the Earth and World Without End, both by Ken Follet (I know, but it's not his usual spy stuff), The Help (can't remember the author, but it's a best-seller), and of course The Stand by Stephen King, a book I return to over and over because the characters are so real and likable.

Ruby said...

An author I recently got interested in is Rick Roidian. He wrote the "Percy Jackson and the Olympians" series (which is now being turned into movie that I refuse to watch). This is more geared for tweens/teens, but I can get lost in their fantasy world (and I normally don't like fantasy books).

Another book that I really like is "The Wedding" by Nicholas Sparks. This is somewhat a sequel to "The Notebook". Not a huge fan of "The Notebook". Some of it is I think the time I read the book, I needed an escape, and it offered me a positive sentimental trip, where the characters were real and had flaws, but still loveable (I read this as I was caring for my dad during his last 48 hours of life on earth).

I do agree with Realistic Optimist that some of it is just childhood. A snow storm now is beautiful and I love them, but somehow the magic that I felt watching them as a kid just isn't there. The only time I get true glimpse of it is when I see it in kids eyes.