Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Summer Reading

This is the time of year my friend Susan sends out a request for summer reading. Then she compiles a list and sends that around.  I haven't heard from her except photos on facebook that look suspiciously like she went ahead with her beach reading without us.  Never one to be discouraged, I will add my own suggestions at the end of today's blog and invite your own recommendations.  Who needs to wait on Susan?

However, I've also got another fun way to read:  Group Reading.  I think I may have invented this.  You get a group of people who are all dying to read the same book and everyone reads it at the same time. It’s not a race. It’s not a club where someone reports on the book later. It’s just a community of people doing the same thing at the same time, sharing the experience with each other.

I think my first Group Read was the final Harry Potter book. Never in the history of humanity has a book ever been so anticipated. I ordered a copy from Amazon and was promised it would be in my mailbox on the release date. But I still couldn’t wait for the mail.  Our mail doesn't get here until around 3 in the afternoon.  So I went into town that morning and bought a copy anyway. Addictions are so sad to watch so please pretend I didn't confess that last bit of info.

And, of course, my pre-ordered copy arrived right on time as promised so I ended up with two copies.

Then Steve and Emily brought a few copies of their own.  Steve's family was here from Ohio and they came to spend the weekend with us.  It seems like we ended up with about ten people and almost as many copies of Harry Potter.  I have no idea where everyone slept but everyone wanted to read Harry Potter.

We commenced to read.



We agreed on one thing from the beginning: No one could give away the slightest detail of what they read. Periodically someone would gasp and everyone would ask what page they were on. Page 64 I remember as particularly distressing. Our other daughter was back in Garland reading and would periodically call on the phone, “Oh, God, just wait until you get to page 127!” Page numbers became our language.

I think Elizabeth finished first because she didn’t have a houseful of company to feed or act polite for. Then, gradually,  people in my house finished and sneaked off to talk about the book to each other, whispering details and comparing opinions.

Group Reading is rooted in my experience doing curfew duty as a youth leader. Anytime you get a bunch of high school people they always have some burning need to communicate with each other after they get into their rooms at night.  This issue has almost dissolved since the invention of cell phones but you still get one or two who need to pop out of their room and run down the hall to discuss something of major importance, usually having to do with the opposite sex.   The adults take hall duty after lights out to keep everyone in the correct room.  Otherwise nobody gets any sleep.

Hall duty always reminded me of fishing. You sit patiently and are usually rewarded by catching someone bolt out the door for a friend’s room about thirty minutes into the curfew. I love to watch their expression when they throw the door open and lunge out only to stop in mid-step when they see me sitting there in the middle of the hall with a smile on my face.

Most of us usually took a book to read while we sat for the hour until things calmed down enough that we could go to sleep ourselves. In those late evenings comparisons of our reading material we found most of us love to read the Janet Evanovich books. She always has one come out in the summer just a couple of weeks before Synod starts.

So we started a Group Read. Reading would commence at Lights Out on the first day of the week.  We compare notes as we passed each other in the hall or in the back of the room doing the few slivers of time where our supervision of the kids is blissfully nominal, “How far have you gotten”? “Has she blown up the car yet?”

There are two things you can always depend on reading a Janet Evanovich book: Stephanie Plum, the heroine, always gets her car destroyed in some hilarious way. It is only a matter of when. And you have to be careful where you read the books. You can’t read them in public because you usually end up laughing out loud.

In fact, one of my most unique group reads I've ever been part of was on a plane when I heard a women two rows up start laughing. The stewardess was walking down the aisle and asked if it was the new Stephanie Plum book. We ended up with about three rows of passengers plus the stewardess talking about the books and comparing notes.

Group reading has no purpose.  I think maybe it’s just being part of a community.

It can get a little competitive without really trying. When I room with the camp nurse at Synod she is usually able to finish before I do because she spends a lot of time in the waiting room at the ER while I’m busy leading a small group.

This year I won’t be at the Synod Youth Workshop but I will be at a different youth event the same week. We’re going to try a group read for both events. I expect a lot of updates on facebook.  You can join us. We commence at Lights Out on Monday: 11pm on July 11th.

I have my copy already.  Dana got one autographed for me when Evanovich was in Dallas last week. 


Here's my suggestions for your summer reading. 

The Help (Start with this one so you can be finished  before the movie comes out.)
Breakfast with Buddah (was on the clearance table at Sam's but is a great read.
George W's book.  Not bad at all. He explains the New Orleans deal
Water for Elephants....then go see the movie.  It doesn't disappoint
Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert (She marries the guy from Eat, Pray, Love)

Try a pair Sue Monk Kidd's books:  start with When the Heart Waits then immediately read Travelling with Pomegranets.  In fact, if you have a college age or recent graduate daughter, the Travelling book is a MUST.  Get two copies and do your own group read.

I've enjoyed Kate Braestrup's books this year:  Here If You Need Me and there's another one I can't remember the title

and finally, Being Dead Is No Excuse - a guide to funeral food in the South by Gayden Metcalfe and Charlotte Mays

Happy Reading!

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