Friday, 20 November 2009

Confessions of a hardcore bookworm

 Michelle Minnoch

There's nothing better than a good book.

The other night, I finished John Irving's A Night in Twisted River and let out a huge sigh.

While I was excited to reach the end of the book, I didn't want the novel to end. I have been waiting for this, Irving's 12th novel, since he wrote Until I Found You in 2005 and one week after I had purchased it, the book found its place alongside his others on my bookshelf.

I have always been an avid reader and I have always been very selective in the types of book I choose to spend my time with.

My time is precious, and if I am going to become attached to characters and people that consume my thoughts between 9 and 10 p.m., then it had better be worth my while.

I got turned onto John Irving when my Grade 10 English teacher, who knew about my love of reading, suggested his favourite book, A Prayer for Owen Meany. That book, to this day, remains the book that has not only had the greatest impact on me, but is also the best I have ever read.

There are two other authors that can easily make me fall in love with words and characters: Wally Lamb and Khaled Hosseini. Lamb's powerful, overweight and overcompensating main character Dolores in his debut novel She's Come Undone made me respect Lamb that much more. How a man could write a woman so well astounded me. Hosseini's Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns are written candidly, beautifully and opens the reader up to a world that seems so far away: Kabul, Affghanistan.

This year I took a chance on AJ Jacobs, the editor-at-large for Esquire, who immerses himself in experiments and takes the reader for a ride. And what a ride it is!

Whether he was living as true to the Bible as he could in The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible or reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica for The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World, I am looking forward to what he does next, knowing I will end each chapter with a smile on my face.

While I love a good novel, I have read quite a great number of biographies and, well, just plain interesting books. Whether it was Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street by Michael Davis, Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher, Why We Suck by Dennis Leary or The Well Dressed Ape: A Natural History of Myself by Hannah Holmes, I spent many nights surrounded by words jumping off the page, new thoughts entering my consciousness and having a few laughs.

I have about six books on my shelf ready to read, and have a long list of books on my Christmas list.

I never have less than two books on the shelf ready and waiting, and I only read one book at a time. I take reading seriously — if I am going to give my time to read someone else's words, they deserve my full attention.

I am currently in Washington with Robert Langdon in Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol and am caught up in the world of free masonry.

It's always a good thrill when Langdon is on the page, I am again glued to this world of words and cannot wait to see what happens next.

But I know once I am finished, I will have much to do.

For the next couple of months I will get into to the minds of Peter Mansbridge, Rick Hillier, Sarah Palin and Russell Brand (though not necessarily in that order). I will travel to Methland: The Life and Death of an American Small Town and read about The Clinton Tapes.

As the proverbial question asks: if you were stuck on an island what three books would you take?

That's a no brainer. To Kill a Mockingbird for my mind, A Prayer for Owen Meany for my soul, and What Would You Do With A Kangaroo? for the kid in me.