February - it may not be the cruellest month, but it might be the most reviled. Hated for its brevity, for its still-winterness, for its confusing Leap Year uncertainties. But so far, February has been awfully good to me, at least as far as reading is concerned.
It started when someone recommended Karen Swallow Prior’s Booked to me, and I grabbed it one afternoon from the school library. In this book, Prior organizes each chapter around one of the books that have been most formative in her life and faith, creating a memoir of sorts. The chapter on Jane Eyre focuses on identity formation, especially in adolescence - which we all will agree is - as Prior writes - “a time of becoming” (78). Then she goes on to talk about nonconformity and continues to play with the word becoming: “I mistook nonconformity for freedom and in so doing found myself anything but free. For it is in conformity to one’s true nature that one is most becoming in both senses of the word: well-fitted and beautiful” (91). I love the wordplay - here and elsewhere in the book, but it is more than just play. It is an often intellectual, almost academic book, but it is not inaccessible. The life and the literature are well-balanced, and I fully enjoyed it.
While reading Booked, I was reminded of Nick Hornby’s “Stuff I’ve Been Reading” column that originates in The Believer magazine and is collected in several volumes, and one afternoon, I went home and just ordered them all. I had the completely ridiculous idea that I might use one of them as my Summer Reading selection. Why ridiculous, you ask? Because Hornby’s hilarious and oh-so-insightful thoughts are sometimes laced with profanity - not a thing that bothers me so much, but probably not what the parents at my school would be most interested in me assigning. Upon realizing their inappropriateness, I should have set them aside and picked up another Summer Reading possibility, but I couldn’t. In fact, I could hardly set them aside at all. February may be a short month, but I have read them all this month, and I couldn’t be happier about it. The column is (usually) a monthly thing where Hornby opens with two lists: Books Bought and Books Read. As I read (and read and read) these columns, I found myself making a list of my own: Books Nick Hornby Thinks I Should Read. Seriously. It’s a list I’ve actually made.
I’m going to write more about my joy over these collected columns in a bit, but besides The List, reading these pieces gave me an idea for the blog, and I thought I might steal the concept in just one important way. I can’t be as smart and honest and humble and straight-up funny as Hornby is, but I can write one longish piece on each month’s reading experience and maybe, just maybe, the blog might come back to life.