Monday, March 15, 2010

I Don't Think I'll be Getting a Personal Pan Pizza

Remember Book It? Pizza Hut teamed up with, I dunno, books, I guess, to encourage elementary school kids to read in the late '80s. We all got nifty blue buttons with empty spots for yellow-star stickers. When you filled your button up with five stars, you got a little pizza.

I loved reading. I still do. I was always reading anyway, so the Book It program made me feel like I was getting rewarded for essentially a biological imperative: "Good job breathing today, kid. Let me guess: pepperoni?"

Early this year, the SLO County Library system announced an Adult Winter Reading Challenge that made me think of Book It for the first time in decades. The organizers even promised prizes for people who complete the task: 10 books, selected from various mandatory categories, by mid-April. Something makes me think the reward isn't a pizza, personal pan or otherwise, but I still wanted to do it.

My life today, however, isn't as commitment free as it was back when I lived on pretty much nothing more than books and pizza. Between two newspapers to run and two children to keep alive, not to mention a wife I like to spend free time with, I'm finding I don't blaze through the books as quickly as I used to. My annual foray into songwriting with FAWM probably didn't help much, either.

What initially seemed like a fun challenge has become something of an albatross or millstone or whatever around my neck. I'm already embarrassed because I'm pretty sure I won't read 10 books by the deadline. Not even close.

I just finished my first book: John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, chosen to satisfy the "American Classic" category. I'd never read it before, but I had wanted to check it out for quite some time. It was probably a mistake, though. I truly thought it was a phenomenal read, but as the first volume of 10 to be tackled, it probably wasn't a wise choice.

Favorite passage, by the way: "And the people listened, and their faces were quiet with listening. The story tellers, gathering attention into their tales, spoke in great rhythms, spoke in great words because the tales were great, and the listeners became great through them."

I'm now reading Paolo Bacigalupi's The Windup Girl (for which I'm also leading a month-long discussion over at Goodreads) to satisfy the "Science or Science Fiction" category, which really seems like two very distinct genres to me. Since I tend to read multiple books concurrently, I'm also a chapter or two into Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express (for "Mystery").

One category on the list I'm still puzzling over, however, is "Self Help." I'd like to start making my own mead—you know, because I need another hobby—but I'm not sure if a volume on such an endeavor qualifies. Any suggestions? Aside from the snide and the obvious? Or The Zombie Survival Guide, because I've already read it?