the magic of fiction

When I was little, I found my magic in books. I always wished I had a secret garden I could escape to where no one would find me. I imagined myself curling up on a blanket under willow trees and reading stories like A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle and The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis for hours and hours until the sun set.

But because I didn’t have a secret garden, I’d find other places to read. For a few summers, I’d climb up the fence in our backyard onto a tree and step onto my parent’s garage with a pillow and book and hand. Up on the black-top roof, I specifically remember reading Beverly Cleary’s Ramona Quimby, Age 8. It had a yellow, hard cover.

As I got older — a pre-teen — I fell in love with books like A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith — I wanted to be the main character Katie because I romanticized her life in New York City — poor, but newly-wed and madly in love. I also read cheesy series like the Baby-Sitters Club and Sweet Valley High and edgy ones like V.C. Andrews’ Flowers in the Attic.

It wasn’t until I was an English major in college that I learned that it was OK to abandon a book if I couldn’t get into it. I could never read fast enough to stay up with the curriculum, so I often read half or three-quarters of every book — and eventually I stopped feeling guilty about it.

Now, I go through “reading ruts” — where I can’t find a book that sucks me in, or I’m too impatient to allow myself to get absorbed in the plot. I’ll sometimes buy a book — and then two days later, I won’t be interested in it. When I was in Tanzania, I couldn’t get into the latest Barbaba Kingsolver book Lacuna and I eventually, reluctantly abandoned it. (Which made me sad because I loved The Poisonwood Bible.)

But when I’m not reading, I feel as if something in my life is missing.

And then there are times, like the past few weeks, where I pick book after book that I can’t put down and I plow through them. And I feel really fulfilled.

Here are the books that I’ve read in the past month that I’ve been quickly absorbed into:
Little Bee by Chris Cleave
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

.. and I’m halfway into The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi Durrow and really enjoying it.

When I’m in a rut, all I want is a good recommendation. So this is for those who are in ruts. If you like fiction, my guess is you’ll be caught up in these books — and transported to another place. What books have you been sucked into lately?

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3 Comments

Filed under books, Uncategorized

3 responses to “the magic of fiction

  1. Mom

    Erin, as you know, I loved The Girl who fell from the Sky, and it is one of those books that is hard to put down. Now I’m reading Joyce Carol Oates memoir, The Widow’s Story.

  2. Sean

    Books are for sissies. Reality television is where it’s at.

  3. bzh

    I can’t believe I’m recommending a Jonathan Franzen book (what kind of dickhead blows off Oprah’s 25 gazillion readers and their money?), but if you haven’t yet read “Freedom,” go get it. It’s really good.

    Also…

    “One Day”
    “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” trilogy
    “Girl in Translation”
    “The Imperfectionists”
    And “Cleaving”… which isn’t fiction, but reads like it anyway…

    xoxoxo.

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