One Reads for Pleasure {Book Club}

books are not about passing time

I was a struggling reader as a child.

I am always a little jealous of people who started reading at an early age because they have that many more years of reading than I do.

I don’t remember being in the lowest reading class of first grade, but I know now that I was. What I remember is that I hated reading because it was so booooring. We were assigned home readers, which were usually old reading textbooks – the kind full of short stories. To me, the stories were entirely pointless and uninteresting.

What I was given to read didn’t interest me, so I didn’t practice reading much. I wasn’t a good reader because I didn’t practice much. I didn’t get to read more interesting things because I wasn’t a good reader. Thus the vicious cycle ensued.

I have a very specific memory of sitting in my bedroom with my home reader. My mother had told me that I had to go read. I am compliant, so I did. But also, the story was dumb. I intentionally mispronounced every word to myself as an act of protest.

In second grade, there were no more home readers. Hallelujah. Amen. Instead we went to the school library and could borrow any book of our choice, as long as it had no less than 100 pages. That would be the book we took home with us to read in the evenings.

I decided that maybe I could tolerate books about animals, so I borrowed any book that had a cat, dog, and horse sticker (denoting an animal story at our library) on the spine. I didn’t read the summary, didn’t check to see what it was about, and I didn’t care if it was 101 or 200+ pages. Who wrote it? It didn’t matter. I read It’s Like This, Cat, The One-Eyed Cat; and Rafa’s Dog. Do I remember anything about these books? Not really. But it was in them (and others with the cat, dog, and horse sticker) that I fell in love with reading.

Library day became my favorite day of school: shelves higher than I could reach, half the width of my school building, filled with possibilities. In high school, I went from class to class with my 3-ring binder, appropriate text book, and whatever I happened to be reading at the time. I wouldn’t want to be caught with time on my hands and nothing to read.

In The Uncommon Reader, we follow the Queen in her accidental journey to becoming a reader. It is a fun, short, lighthearted read. I love all of the Queen’s thoughts and experiences as books take over her life. There are so many great quotes about reading.

“What she was finding also was how one book led to another, doors kept opening wherever she turned, and the days weren’t long enough for the reading she wanted to do.” Been there!

“Books are not about passing the time. They’re about other lives. Other worlds. Far from wanting time to pass, Sir Kevin, one just wishes one had more of it.”

“The sheer endlessness of books outfaced her and she had no idea how to go on; there was no system to her reading, with one book leading to another, and often she had two or three on the go at the same time.” This is my life.

“’I think of literature,’ she wrote, ‘as a vast country to the far borders of which I am journeying but will never reach. And I have started too late. I will never catch up.’” While I sometimes feel that starting to read at age 7 was a bit late, it’s not as late as the Queen started. But no one will ever catch up. The world is so full of books!

Let’s talk in the comments. When did you start loving to read? Why do you love to read? Do you have a system for choosing your “to reads” or do you select books haphazardly?

P.S. We’ll discuss the second half next week.

Photo by Aga Putra on Unsplash

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  1. Michele May 20, 2019

    Wow, Rachel, who would have guessed you to be a struggling reader?! I didn’t read this one, but I love the quotes and hope someday I will. I’m not in a season of too many going or on the ‘read next shelf’, and I have exams on Nepali history, culture and literature coming up, so thought better to refrain from taking on another book. My mom read to me from as long as I can remember, and both parents were seen reading for pleasure at home, so I was highly motivated to read and don’t ever remember not loving it. The library in our little town was next to the pool and a five minute bike ride away, so summer means reading in my mind. One of the best things about taking every summer to babysit nieces in America each year is the time we spend in libraries!

    1. Rachel Kahindi May 22, 2019

      Yes! The library is one of our first stops on our trips back home. We don’t have plane tickets for our next trip yet, but I sure have a list of books to borrow for myself and both of my kids. 🙂

  2. Amy Young May 22, 2019

    I’m loving this book! Thanks for choosing it 🙂 . . . I think what tickles me most, is how the Queen assumed that Norman was a reader and treated him as the “expert.” I’ve been thinking recently about the power of naming and, thus, calling forth the good from people. I also love that the Queen and Norman have each other. Makes me think of our Book Club!

    And Rachel, thanks for sharing about being a struggling reader. My mom read voraciously my whole life, and my father basically read the newspaper. She always said to all of us that it did not matter if we read as fast or as much as she did. Later in life, my dad started reading — often commenting on his slow speed. It was a bit weird to see my dad reading :)!! Also, his retention was amazing! Perhaps I read too fast :)!!

    I’m eager to see how this book ends.

    1. Rachel Kahindi May 22, 2019

      Glad you’re enjoying it! I had a lot of fun with it, too.

  3. Ruth May 22, 2019

    I can’t imagine my life without books. I was blessed to grow up in a family surrounded by books. My parents had made the choice not to have tv in the house, so we kids were either outside playing in the woods or tucked away somewhere reading. We looked forward to regular visits to the library in town and I loved even the smell of the place. Good memories. My mother always said “Books are like friends – you can never have too many” To this day I blame her for my 7 overflowing bookcases. =)

    1. Rachel Kahindi May 24, 2019

      7 overflowing bookcases. Love it!

  4. Sarah Hilkemann May 23, 2019

    I’m late to the party but this book has been super fun! I liked this quote (on page 30 in the print book): “The appeal of reading, she thought, lay in its indifference: there was something undeferring about literature. Books did not care who was reading them or whether one read them or not. All readers were equal, herself included.” I love the way reading can bring us together!

    I didn’t necessarily see my parents reading for themselves but they always read a ton to us. After lunch, my mom would read to us (and we would fight over who got to sit in the good spots in front of the rocking chair because apparently some spots you could hear better than others?). I particularly remember her reading the book Johnny Tremain. My dad would read to us all at night before we went to bed, and my favorites from that time were the Little House on the Prairie books- still an all-time favorite- and The Witch of Blackbird Pond. When we read that last one in book club a few years ago, it brought back such good memories! I have always loved reading, although I go for stretches where it’s harder to really get in to a book because of life circumstances.

    1. Rachel Kahindi May 24, 2019

      Aw… My mom read us the Little House books on road trips, but I don’t remember much about them at all. 🙁 I probably remember more from the TV series than the books, which is a shame.

  5. Spring May 27, 2019

    I love your story of learning to love to read Rachel. I think second grade isn’t that “late in the game” to enjoy reading. My husband didn’t really enjoy it till our first years of marriage. It has been a struggle for him as well as 3 of our kids. I finally saw my oldest just start to like reading (and mostly graphic novels at that) around age 12.

    Me? I remember the first book I read Dick and Jane. at age 5, before I started first grade. I don’t ever remember not liking reading. Both of my parents are introverts. I was read to almost every night growing up. My father read me the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings series when I was in 4th grade. I have read it 3 times since then. I believe I had to get glasses in 6th grade because I used to read to the light of the nightlight.

    My book list is mostly from books others recommend, or books that look good on the digital library.

    I am enjoying the book, abet I am a bit behind.

    1. Rachel Kahindi May 27, 2019

      My husband also became a reader after we got married. I like to think it was my influence. LOL.

  6. Bayta Schwarz May 27, 2019

    I definitely hail from a reading family! Both my parents read a ton, as does my brother. Since moving to Berlin, some days it feels I spend half my life on public transport. One of the perks of that is getting to read a ton! I have even tackled some long reads (like Les Miserables), knowing I had trips coming up that would give me plenty of time to read. And while I love “real” books, I am so thankful for my Kindle! So much easier to carry around with me!

    1. Rachel Kahindi May 27, 2019

      I totally agree – I love reading real books, but the Kindle is so practical. I even have the app on my phone so that if I forget to bring my Kindle with me, I still have my book.

  7. Missy May 30, 2019

    First, can I just say, THANK YOU!!!

    I grew up loving to read. I had my own bookshelf in my room, even as a really little kid. Some of my earliest memories is sitting on my bed, next to the bookshelf, re-reading ad re-reading my favorite books. College of course changed that. Reading became drudgery. So much mandatory, boring reading. It took a few years after graduation to be able to be in a place where I enjoyed reading again.

    Now I”m in the position of…where do I find books? What is worth the read? With 3 small kids I can’t just pick up anything for the fun of it. Many books I’ve read simply because I ‘should.’

    Last night, I downloaded the audio version of this book. I feel like the queen!!! I”m rediscovering the joy of reading just for the sake of enjoying! Nearly everything the queen says in the first half of the book is resonating in my soul. It felt so good to read/listen last night.

    Thank you for creating this international inline book club! I”ve always wanted to be a part of a book club, but because of my line of work thought it would have to wait till retirement. You guys have made a dream come true! Thank you!!

    1. Rachel Kahindi May 31, 2019

      Yes!! These were some of my exact feelings when I first joined bookclub, too. Welcome!

  8. Abigail Zhao July 20, 2019

    I loved reading as long as I can remember! My grandma was concerned that I was reading books with content that was too intense, like ones about someone being exiled to Siberia. Both of my parents like to read. In elementary school, I loathed organized group games. And my teachers were also worried about me because I would be sitting somewhere with a book. 🙂 Then going overseas, there was more emphasis among our org on “doing enough” to justify living overseas, and being supported financially. One year, another family loaned me Leif Enger’s Peace Like a River. I stayed up late into the night to finish it! This reminded me why I love novels. It truly is valuable to enter another world for awhile.

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