Read and Write

I look at my watch and crunch the numbers, and decide to keep going. One more. I have time. Besides, it’s a short chapter. Kind of. Everything else can wait.

Actually, the decision was made for me. I had to read more. Besides, I wasn’t really reading but consuming the book page by page. And I was ravenous.

I wanted more. More of the words which formed a running movie in my head. So, somehow in my crammed schedule, I stole time to read some more.

All you readers know just what I mean. I’m sure you could name a book or 30 that grabbed you like this. You rush to the end but are sad when it comes. Or maybe you slow down as you approach the conclusion savoring each scene, page, and word. When the end comes, you are both sad and exhilarated. For those of us who are also writers, maybe — like me — you feel a pang of jealousy and awe. You hope that you move people as you have been moved and are blown away by the writer’s skill.

I recently read Johnathan Tropper’s One Last Thing Before I Go. I became aware of Mr. Tropper while reading a review of one of his books at One Last Thing Before I Go focuses on a man in his 40s. His life is screwed up both personally (divorced, very distant relationship with his daughter) and professionally (after being the drummer of a band that had one hit song, he periodically plays weddings and bar mitzvahs). He gets the news that he must have surgery, or he will die. He decides his life is not worth saving. However, before he goes, he sets three goals: be a better man, be a better father, and fall in love. The book is about his uneven pursuit to fill these goals. There were moments of humor, sadness, and downright lunacy which encompassed both. I lost track of how many times I read a line or scene that forced me to ponder and think, “I wish I would have said that.”

Ultimately, this book made me feel writerish (I know that’s not a word, but I am using it anyway. For anyone who used to listen to Richie Ashburn announce Phillies games, this is a tip of the cap to him; he used to periodically announce that a particular batter looks hitterish.) I added a few chapters to the novel that I have been writing in my head. I have a short story idea that I will be pursuing. I already stole an idea for a recent blog. I am in a writing state of mind.

So, grab a copy of One Last Thing Before I Go byJonathan Tropper. But be prepared to change your schedule.

For the Love of Reading

I love reading.  This love was surely passed down as my mother also loves reading. However, when I was growing up, I dreaded when my mom was engaged with a book..  No, I did not begrudge her having some me time.  However, my mother had a hard time saying no to books.  Dinner would be late, homework help not forthcoming, clothes not laundered and the bathroom door was locked for long periods when my mother absorbed her latest read..  Yes, she loved to escape into a book.

My wife started reading to our children when they were only weeks old, and both our children love reading as well.  My older son, in particular, is an avid reader. It is a pleasure to hear him read as he reads with great expression.  My wife will read with him before bed and when she leaves, he will continue on his own.  While he and I are pals, he doesn’t like to have me put him to bed. “He always falls asleep,’ he complains.  I’d like to argue with him, but he is correct. I rarely finish even one book or chapter before falling asleep. So, when I put him to bed, he gets cheated out of his reading time.
I recently took my children to the library.  The local libraries are very good and often serve as a destination for my family and I. They have toys for the children to play with and of course, they fit into the budget.  Anyway, on this recent trip while the boys were playing at a train table, I picked out books for them. Between my love of reading and being an English teacher, I put a lot into the selection process.  I want the books to be challenging, fun, and include lessons or morals.  I know that is a lot to ask for, but I am talking about an ideal. Generally, I flip through the books read a couple of pages and if they seem good, I will pick them out. Ultimately, I want the children to enjoy the books in order to enhance their love of reading. I look at this process as an investment in their future – reading will help them in so many ways as they get older.  Anyway, while scanning the shelves, I came across an author, Matt Christopher.  
I think I was one of the few third graders who actually had a favorite author and that author was Matt Christopher.  Truth be told, he may have been the only author whose name I knew, but that is besides the point. His books were simple: boys and sports and a moral makes three. I loved reading his books!  So, when I saw a stack of Mr. Chrisopher’s books on the shelf, I had to get one. I ended up getting his first kids book – The Lucky Baseball Bat which came out in 1954.  After two readings my son and I are up to chapter 10.  I have not fallen asleep while reading – yes, I am proud. 
It is already clear that my sons have the love of reading.  The fact that we are reading a book that I read as a child – well, that makes me smile. Now, I just have to make sure I still get dinner ready on time.

Hip for The Hunger Games

I’ve gotten to the age where I know I’m not cool. It’s not particularly important to me – no need to set trends. I’ll take happy children, a contented wife, and a decent job. I am comfortable with myself. Yet, a part of me likes to look in the mirror and think I’ve still got it.  Yes, I’m a dad in the suburbs, though I don’t own a minivan, so I’m not so typical.  Really, it’s true.

This past week I completed The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. That’s right I’ve read The Hunger Games which happens to be number two on the NY Times best seller list – children’s series (I’d prefer to think of it as young adult)!  My little cousin recommended The Hunger Games to me, and I figured I would read it just to see to validate her choices. I am a good cousin.  Well, I think I validated her choices by reading the first of the trilogy, a nearly 400 page book, over my five day vacation ignoring the clock and going to sleep way past my bedtime.

See, I am not a stuffy 40ish English teacher who only reads proper literature. I am plugged in, on the scene, and in touch.  I read popular novels, which by the way is coming out as movie on Friday March 23rd.  I looked it up and checked out the cast.  Not only did I read The Hunger Games, but I enjoyed it and want to talk about it. I was disappointed when my cousin did not show up at the last family event – I wanted to talk to her and discuss the book and its deeper meanings. I recently found that a friend of mine read the book, and we reviewed the main characters names and the potential symbolism. I keep recommending it to students.  Hey, I still am an English teacher. However, I am more than just a dad in the suburbs. I’m kind of hip, and I’ll take that!