I “Wanda” What to Read?

Thus far in my life, I have played many roles. I’ve been a daughter, a sister, a reader, a teacher, a wife, and a mom. In fact, I’m still all of those people (with the exception of being a teacher), but until recently, no longer was I a reader. You see, when I became a mom, the reader in me went into hiding. That part of me that always had a book in hand had to take a back seat to the demands and priorities of motherhood. I have missed being a reader, and have long wanted to reclaim that part of my identity.

Now, thanks to a job in a middle school media center, surrounded by books all day, I’m starting to reclaim that identity, and slowly but surely have become a “born again” reader. This adventure in returning to the books that I love began when the library staff decided to host a challenge one summer: How many titles could be read by each staff member before returning to school in the fall? Although this competition amongst us was admittedly self-serving (fueled by visions of graphs on school bulletin boards displaying my summer reading prowess), it motivated me to dive back into reading and absorb all sorts of titles and genres. From audiobooks and e-readers, to children’s books, Young Adult (YA) selections and professional development tomes, it all counted.

[*Let me stop here for a minute and talk about audiobooks. I know I’m not alone when I say I was very hesitant about using audiobooks. Almost downright adamant about not using audiobooks. I approached their use essentially kicking and screaming. I mean, what were these things? But, holy cow! Where had I been? What had I been missing? I could do crafts while listening to a book? The kitchen could be cleaned while listening to a book? I could listen to a book while doing my most unfavorite thing—waiting in the car pick up line?

This notion that I could do two things at once was a game changer! Suddenly, I was listening to books everywhere. The number of books available to me increased exponentially. Not only did I have more titles available to me, I essentially had more time to “read” by simply listening.]

But I digress. 

Amidst all these new titles surrounding me in the school library, and amidst all the technology that allowed me access to countless paperless titles, the genre that especially appealed to me were the YA titles. They are what really got me into reading again. I found that delving into teen literature was the perfect first step in returning to my reading habits of old; these particular selections kept me from jumping in over my head, from sinking too deeply, too quickly. My eldest son likened the process to that of eating an elephant. How would you eat such a massive creature? Why, one bite at a time, that’s how. So that’s how I approached my return to reading—in small, manageable “bites”—and how I discovered that I love YA titles. It may sound unlikely and/or unconventional, but when was the last time you picked up a YA title?  

A great way to begin choosing from the myriad of YA titles is to consult North Carolina’s yearly “Battle of the Books” list. It will direct you to award-winning titles, books in a series, authors you’ll want to keep reading, and literature that is intriguing, engaging and enlightening. My recommendations are endless, but in the interest of brevity, here are my top choices:

Cinder/Scarlet/Cress/Winter/Fairest(comprising The Lunar Chronicles) by Marisa Meyer  
These are considered Science Fiction, a genre I mistakenly thought I hated. But boy did I get caught up in this series. Each title is a modern-day take on a classic fairy tale: Cinder relates to the story of Cinderella, Scarlet draws on the story of Little Red Riding Hood, and so on and so forth. There are handsome princes, evil stepmothers, space travel, robots, plots to conquer the world, romance, and a cyborg. What’s not to love here?

The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen
This is a book I recommend to anybody asking what they should read. The main character is a high school track superstar who is involved in a horrible accident and is unable to run anymore. This is the story of how she survives, and thrives.

Fish in a Tree by Linda Mullaly Hunt
This is a story about an amazing teacher who intuitively understands a new student, Ally, and the issue with which she has always struggled. Ally has moved around a lot, and has a problem she has always been able to hide. This teacher, however, recognizes the problem and works with Ally to find a solution. Teachers are wonderful people!

Undefeated: Jim Thorpe & the Carlisle Indian School Football Team by Steve Sheinkin 
This is a superb non-fiction selection that tells the story of accomplished athlete and Olympian Jim Thorpe, delving into Native American history and that of the great American tradition of football. I listened to this audiobook, which had simply phenomenal narration. I found myself stopping whatever I was doing (the whole “two-things-at-once” thing) and looking at my phone in anticipation of what was coming next.

If you’re like me and feel as though you’ve lost touch with part of who you used to be, I encourage you to try to “see the light” again. Identify those small steps you can take towards regaining your sense of self. I’m thrilled to have returned to a life of reading, and to have discovered some surprising interests along the way.