Suzanne Tobias

Along with kids’ independence, so grows a mom’s wanna-read list

This column is not normally about book recommendations, though I’ve been known to advocate on behalf of libraries, controversial kid books and skipping school to finish a novel.

But I read such a great book over the weekend that I feel compelled to tell you about it – “The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry,” by Gabrielle Zevin.

Dear, sweet, reader-type people: If you’re a book lover, if situations in your real life remind you of characters you’ve met in novels, if you’ve ever belonged to a book club, if you have a special reading chair in a special reading corner in a special reading room in your home, and if you appreciate (or at least don’t loathe) contemporary fiction, check this book out.

My friend Emily, when I said it was next on my reading list, responded with her nutshell review: “It made my heart do stuff.”

So true.

I devoured “A.J. Fikry” in one day. I would have read it in a single sitting had I not felt some pressure to stand up and walk around a little, stay hydrated, and make sure my children had basic nourishment. As it was, I think I solved that last problem by making a big pot of soup in the morning and, when the requests for food inevitably began, shrugging and pointing in the general vicinity of the kitchen.

Soup. Bread. Help yourself. Mom’s reading.

I used to feel guilty for spending more than an hour or so with my nose in a book. For most of my mothering years – until that glorious moment when I realized my kids could feed, dress, entertain and bathe themselves – I did most of my reading in short bursts. A lot of it was in the bathroom.

Now I am rediscovering the joy of reading for long stretches on cold winter days or poolside on summer ones. I finally am attacking that list of books I’ve been meaning to read – “A Moveable Feast,” “Wringer,” “Gone Girl,” “Outliers,” “The Maltese Falcon” – and realizing that my wanna-read list just gets longer and longer.

My friend Tara posted a question on her Facebook page recently, asking people to list their top five books of all time. Hers were “The Poisonwood Bible,” “A Wrinkle in Time,” “A Tale of Two Cities,” “Because It Is Bitter and Because It Is My Heart,” and “On the Street Where I Live.”

I had read only three of her five, so I added the other two to my list. (See what I mean about that list growing? Mine is up to 282.)

Then I tried to think of my top five, which was horrible. (The task, I mean, not the list.) Narrowing down a lifetime of reading to five favorite works felt like trying to choose a favorite movie or a last meal. Out of pressure, though, I went ahead and did it: “Dracula,” “The Book Thief,” “The Glass Castle,” “Atonement” and “American Gods.”

My list easily could have included “The Outsiders,” which I read in eighth grade; “Travels With Charley,” which inspired me to become a writer; “Bird by Bird,” which inspired me to remain one; “As I Lay Dying,” which I read in a college class on William Faulkner; or “Mitten Strings for God,” which I somehow managed to read when my children were young and have reread several times since.

It also could have included “Fikry” or Alice McDermott’s “Someone,” which I relished over the recent holidays.

Or my next favorite book might be the next one I read. Or the next. Or the one after that.

It’s only a matter of time.

Reach Suzanne Perez Tobias at 316-268-6567 or stobias@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @suzannetobias.

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