True Confessions of a Reading Addict, or, Geographically Inspired Reading, Anyone?

There were so many ideas for posts that I had at the beginning of this six-week guest-blogging run, but alas, the ratio of time-to-blog versus topics-to-blog was lopsided in the extreme.  Even so, it’s truly been an honor and a pleasure to stand on Scalzi’s Soapbox a couple of times a week over the past six weeks, and I’m especially grateful for everyone who took the time to comment on my humble offerings.  Cheers for putting up with me; this guest-blogging stint has been big fun from my perspective and has, I hope, served as an at least mildly entertaining diversion for you during Scalzi’s absence.

Scalzi is due back anytime now, so this is going to be my final post.  While I was thinking about what the topic of my farewell post should be, I wanted to come up with something as inclusive as possible, and I think I’ve come up with a topic that should prove to have the broadest appeal of my Whatever ramblings to date.

Why do I think that?  Well, because the topic at hand is reading.  As a self-diagnosed reading addict, I feel pretty confident that, of the common traits I share with everyone reading these words, all of us being readers (and very likely voracious readers) probably ranks pretty high on the list.  I don’t know about you, but for most of my life, I’ve often weighed (either consciously or otherwise) my leisure time options in terms of, “I could do X or I could read a book.”  More often than not, reading a book wins.  Simply put, reading is my drug of choice and I believe I qualify medically as an addict (and yes, I’m more than halfway serious when I say that).

I could get into lots of examples (reading while walking the dog for a mile every morning is the one that most people find especially noteworthy; a neighbor once remarked with evident good humor, “You know, it would be more impressive if the dog was reading”), but I’m going to focus on just one of my reading habits today.  For years now, one of my favorite reading habits has been what I’ve come to think of as geographically inspired reading, and based on that designation, it’s exactly what I expect you’d guess it is.  Whenever possible, when I travel, I try to select a book (or books) set in the city/state/country that I’m visiting, and bring it/them with me to read during the trip.  I’m not talking about guidebooks, mind you, I’m talking about novels or non-fiction works of history or journalism (ideally, a mix of fiction and non-fiction, but I tend towards novels more often than not when traveling).  So far this year, I’ve read geographically inspired books in New Orleans (Pegasus Descending by James Lee Burke), London (He Kills Coppers by Jake Arnott,  Making History by Stephen Fry, and as a pre-trip mood-setter, William Gibson and Bruce Sterling’s The Difference Engine) and, most recently, on my Oregon vacation.

Contrary to my custom with geographically inspired reading, the Oregon trip didn’t start with a geographically inspired book because, well, because it was the week that Mockingjay came out, and I wasn’t going to wait any longer than necessary to dive into that sucker (say what you will about “juvenile fiction” if you must, naysayers, but The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins represents some of the best SF I’ve read in years); luckily, I was able to polish that one off pretty quickly, reading most of it on the flight from D.C.  The geographically inspired reading kicked in next, however, as I moved on to Greg Rucka’s Portland-set mystery, A Fistful of Rain.  The Rucka was the only book set in Oregon that I had on my “unread” bookcase when I packed for the trip, but I was tipped off by the friend with whom I was staying in Portland that James Lee Burke’s daughter, Alafair Burke, had set her first few mysteries in Portland.  Armed with that intel, the next day on my (first) trip to Powell’s, I picked up Judgment Calls, the first book in Burke’s Samantha Kincaid series.   Both books were gripping mysteries, which was a treat in itself, but the main point of geographically inspired reading is the setting, so to a large extent it was Portland that was the real star of those two books for me.

Which is the long way of saying that if you haven’t indulged in the practice of geographically inspired reading, I highly recommend that you do so, especially when traveling.  If you haven’t indulged in the activity already, you’ll just have to take it from me that it’s quite the reader’s thrill to read about places you may have just seen/visited (Powell’s was mentioned in both of the abovementioned mysteries, for example), and you’ll likely learn some things about the city/state/country you’re in that you’d have been unlikely to learn from any guidebook.  As well, based on something you may read in the pages of a geographically inspired book, you might even be inspired to alter your plans to fit in a trip to a site that hadn’t previously been on your radar.  I’ve done so, most recently last summer in Barcelona while reading Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s The Angel’s Game, and it was a singular thrill.  And geeky though such a thrill may be, I’m happy to take my thrills wherever I find ‘em, thank you very much.

So, to my fellow reading addicts out there … how many of you engage in geographically inspired reading?  Any other “true reading confessions ” you’d care to share with the group?  C’mon, I went first, so don’t be shy…

I Remember

I remember laughing in my blue Saturn at NPR as they discussed Bushisms. I remember carrying my infant daughter up the stairs to our house. I remember sitting on my couch, opening the bag of donuts. I remember turning on my TV to the Today Show.

At first it was awe. At first it was confusion. At first it was an accident.

Matt Lauer interviewed a woman who described the first tower. The first plane. The first fire.

Then the second hit. Live on TV. Live in front of the world.

Confusion turned to fear, anxiety and determination.

I left the uneaten donuts, the live TV, scooped up my daughter and raced back to the school to get my son. Never noticing how blue and beautiful the sky was that day.

The sky is beautiful and blue today and I remember.

To all those who were lost 9 years ago, to those who have served us and protected, to those who raced in when lower Manhattan was covered in ash, I remember you.

How could I ever forget?

To those who’ve preached tolerance amidst fear and misinformation, to those who’ve started to rebuild, to those who’ve carried on despite their losses, I thank you.

How could I not?

It is more than a moment of silence. It is a lifetime of memory and slowly healing wounds. It is a day for every American, every citizen of the world, every human to reflect on an event that will never be forgotten.

How could we?