Tuesday, September 14, 2010

There's No Such Thing As A Bad Read ... Right?

By Katherine Hall Page

I cannot remember a time when I didn’t know how to read, or a time when I wasn’t enthralled by reading. Nose in a book, curled up in a chair, my mother would tell me to go outside and play, which I did—taking my book with me. If I’m caught in a long grocery line without a paperback tucked in my purse, I get a bit panicky and start reaching for whatever is closest to hand—Soap Opera Digest, Say Goodbye to Cellulite or one of the tabloids screaming “Brangelina Adopts Space Alien Triplets”.

In my book, there’s no such thing as a Bad Read.

There is, however, a Good Read. Neither genre, nor length, matter. What matters are the written words and their ability to take you inside yourself and, at the same time, far away. Summer means more leisure to read for me as I’ve usually submitted my next book in the late spring. This summer I’ve been reading a great number of wonderful British crime writers, having attended Crimefest in Bristol, England in May Colin Dexter was the guest of honor and I’ve been rereading him, as well as discovering a few of his I had somehow missed. Other British writers: Cath Staincliffe’s The Kindest Thing (it may be the best book I’ve read this year), also Matt Hilton’s books and A.D. Scott’s debut, A Small Death in the Great Glen. I stopped in London and went to Persephone Press’s bookstore and walked away with some of their treasures: vintage novels by authors like Nancy Mitford and Dorothy Whipple (available online from their web site). Vintage mysteries are always Good Reads, and I have a stack from the Rue Morgue Press in Colorado (also a great web site).

2010 is the 50th anniversary of the publication of To Kill A Mockingbird. I reread it and a fascinating biography, Mockingbird by Charles J. Shields that came out several years ago. It answers the question always asked about why Harper Lee never wrote another book.

Summer is also a good time for a certain type of book—family sagas—I’m reading William Martin’s Annapolis—and books filled with humor and colorful characters. I lean toward Dorothy Cannell, Dorothea Benton Frank, and Mary Kay Andrews.

Because I am interested in all things culinary, I read Anthony Bourdain’s new book, Medium Raw and am halfway through Heat An Amateur’s Adventures As Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, And Apprentice To A Dante-Quoting Butcher In Tuscany by Bill Buford.

I live in Maine part of the year and wait for the summer church and library book sales that generate operating funds or money for special projects like a new roof. This is where I pick up vintage children’s books and cookbooks.  I particularly like cookbooks from the 1940’s and 50’s, as well as the ones community groups put together. I came across one published by the Oceanville, Maine Baptist Church for their 200th anniversary a number of years ago. Mixed in with recipes for Salmon Wiggle and Mother’s Molasses Cookies, I came across this prayer:

Dear God:
I thank you for a great day.
I have not gossiped.
I have not lost my temper.
I have not said anything I regret.
I have not had any impure thoughts.
I have not argued with anyone.
I have not disappointed my family
I have not taken Your name in vain.
But in a moment I’m going to get out of bed,
And then I’m really going to need Your help.
In Jesus’ Name.

No matter what one’s belief, or lack thereof, I think we can all agree, this is a Good Read!
Katherine Hall Page is the Agatha Award winning author of the Faith Fairchild mystery series. An amateur sleuth, Faith is also a caterer, minister’s wife, and mother. The 19th in the series, The Body in the Gazebo (Wm. Morrow) will be published in early April. Page’s first cookbook, Have Faith in Your Kitchen (Orchises Press) is out now. Katherine welcomes visitors to her web site and enjoys comments from readers: www.katherine-hall-page.org


Sheila Connolly said...

In elementary school I used to walk home while reading a book. It's a wonder I survived (although I only had a street or two to cross). In high school and after, I used to reread Tolkien's Ring Trilogy every summer. In college I replaced that with Dorothy Sayers' Gaudy Night.

I live in terror of being stuck somewhere with nothing to read.

And my daughter brought home Medium Raw--and I may never eat commercial hamburgers again (but I'll eat anything with Tony Bourdain on the side).

Sue Curran said...

I agree. And I love the prayer.

Marni said...

Katherine, I hear you! I'll read the back of a cereal box if there's nothing else around.
Other UK writers I enjoy: Denise Mina, Michael Robotham,Stephen Booth, and Graham Hurley. Also, Nicola Upson has a series starring Josehpine Tey that's period-perfect!

Writer Lady said...

I've always read everything in sight. When people comment on my knowledge of the world's trivial, and sometimes not so trivial, I chalk it up to reading, and reading, and reading.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your kind remarks about Mockingbird. I'm always pleased to hear about another satisfied reader!


Charles J. Shields