Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Border Collies + Books

This week, I started a Fantasy and Sci-Fi literature course through Coursera.  Through the discussion boards, I've found a few people who are blogging about the course.  While this blog will still be mostly about my Barley girl and our adventures in training and hiking, I thought it might be nice to take a moment and reflect on my reading life since Barley has come into my life.

Books Before Barley
Sothlice is a bit of a nerd and has many diverse interests.  I think these pictures will speak for themselves.
Gamer cat.

Wine connoisseur 
Puzzle master
Sothlice is an avid reader and lover of the classics, but doesn't discriminate against any form of the written word.
Maz, did you see this headline?

Always looking for a way to get rid of that belly.

He's a typical boy.

Oh, Emily Dickinson, I'm so glad there's a cat version of you on this bag. 
Jan Brett is the best.
Sothlice also enjoys writing.
I think this paper is missing a page.

My editor thinks I should cut all of these pages?
He is also a couch potato.
I could spend all day here.
Before Barley, we spent much of our time reading and writing.  He loves it when I read poetry aloud to him, especially Ted Kooser.  Soth was happy as long as I was willing to curl up on the couch with a blanket and a book.  Since I got him as my graduation present to myself after finishing my M.A., I could read whatever I wanted whenever I wanted.  This usually meant reading Truman Capote and a bunch of poetry.   It meant war stories and sports stories.  It also meant the occasional Nicholas Sparks or Jodi Picoult book (although those stay hidden on a shelf in the room my English major friends are least likely to enter when visiting).  I also joined a reading group lead by one of my former professors that focused on Latin American writers.  I read a lot.  Plus, my apartment in New Mexico didn't have AC, so lounging on the couch in front of the fan was one of the best ways to spend the day.

Books after Barley
As I've noted, I had no idea what I was getting into when I got Barley in terms of energy (among many  other things).  For a while, I didn't read for fun at all.  Between teaching all day, grading papers afternoon/evening, and adjusting to Barley's energy levels, I couldn't stay awake to read a whole page.  Finally, the summer rolled around and we had more time to walk and play.  We also started training and learned some calming exercises (more on this at a later date).  

That same summer, I went to a Pirates game (well, many Pirates games) with my family.  They always have fun facts about the players before innings and during their at-bats, and one fun fact we learned was that Andrew McCutchen's favorite book is Of Mice and Men.  Even though this is a classic, I had never read it (it was banned at my high school).  Being Cutch fans, my brother and I decided to read it.  
We also had an Of Mice and Men photo shoot on Dad's Father's Day PNC tour.
O! Pioneers was next to Of Mice and Men on the shelf at my parents (they don't alphabetize by author and title like I do).  This was another classic that I had never read and I like Willa Cather, especially after reading Death Comes for the Archbishop in my Southwest lit class.
This church is being built by the end of Death Comes for the Archbishop.
Cather gives a shout out to Chimayo, too.
I loved every second of O! Pioneers, so I got on a bit of a Cather kick and read My Antonia (a big part of this was so I could feel good about drinking my bottle of Dogfish Head beer by the same name--which is every bit as lovely as the book, if you were wondering.)  Then I read The Professor's House.  

Once school started again, though, I was once again too tired for books like Cather's (because as lovely as they are, they are not quick reads--I started Song of the Lark a couple months ago and had to abandon it because it is not light travel reading).

Then one day, I came across a movie called A Dog Year and felt like I was watching a documentary about my life (except my life doesn't have real sheep in it).  I found out that it was based on Jon Katz's book of the same title and my sister got it for me for Christmas.  This inspired me to go on a Katz kick.  In no time at all, I had read A Dog Year, A Good Dog, Soul of a Dog, The Dogs of Bedlam Farm, and Izzy and Lenore.  Rose in a Storm is still on the shelf waiting to be read--I think it might need to be read during a snow storm.  This lead me to buying some chick lit that had canine characters; I do not read chick lit as a rule--every now and then I make an exception and Jacqueline Sheehan's Lost and Found and Picture This were two of those exceptions.  I recognize that they were not particularly good books, but I found them highly enjoyable.  Then I read The Art of Racing in the Rain and loved every second of that, too.  Dog books were somewhat new territory for me.  My favorite book in elementary school (and I still occasionally pick it up for some quality time) was The Trouble with Tuck.  I could handle this book because it has a happy ending.  I don't think I read another dog book until Marley and Me (which for some reason I still read after going through an entire box of Kleenex while watching the movie) and swore off dog books.  I reaffirmed the need to avoid dog books when I read Where the Red Fern Grows (how did I miss this in middle school?) for an English festival I organized for middle school students.  Dog books always make me cry.  But, I needed Jon Katz's books.  I wouldn't say they are necessarily well-written, either, but for the first time I felt like somebody really understood what I was experiencing with Barley and even though some of his stories do not have a happy ending, they're real and I needed that.

After all that dog reading, I read something else I swore I would never read--a cat book!  In fact, the cat bag pictured above was supposed to be the only cat thing my family was ever allowed to buy me after I became a cat owner (of course, then my sister found a cute cat wine rack.)  I thought after all the dogs, Soth was probably jealous and when Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World was less than $4 on a Barnes and Noble bargain shelf, I had to get it.
Plus, I'm a sucker for orange kitties and this one is especially cute.
I loved this book.  I think all libraries and bookstores need a book cat.  But I probably will never read another cat book (even though I inherited all of the books with white kitties with pink noses on the covers from my grandma's library).

So, in addition to turning my sleeping, eating, tv watching, exercising routines upside down, Barley also turned my reading life upside down.  I've read things I never thought I would and enjoyed them.  It hasn't always been easy to find the time, energy, or motivation to read, though.  So, that's why I'm excited about this Coursera idea.  I'm reading books I'd never have picked up on my own (from the section of the bookstore that I usually make a wide circle around).  And, since I'm still scared that my mom will find out if I don't do my homework (even if I've been living under my own roof for 5+ years and the course isn't actually for credit), I know that I will at least make an honest effort to finish each of these books.

1 comment:

  1. Haha, I literally laughed out loud at the pictures of Bun. He is so cultured.