Paige's Pages: The books that bind

Illustration by Megan Mulholland Buy this photo

By Paige Pearcy, Deputy Magazine Editor
Published January 20, 2013

Books are perhaps my best relationship. They’re always there and they’re always interesting, new, exciting, romantic and emotional. Television bores me, movies are short-lived, but books … they stick with you. And yet, how often do you read? It’s hard to find time, right? But what if you read just 20 pages a day? Give up a few minutes … cough … hours … on Facebook and pick up one of those paper-filled thought-makers. I promise, it’s the cheapest and most effective anti-depressant you’ll find.

You don’t have to believe that just because my name is the same word as those that fill my favorite objects that I have any authority to deem a book worthy or not worthy. But, I am an English major, if that credits me at all. I’m going to tell you what I think, and I hope you decide to pick one of these books up and see what it does for you.

I figured that over the holiday break I’d be able to fit in some light reading before hauling the novels for my English classes across campus this semester. With the piles of snow outside, freezing temperatures and the thought of having to see someone I knew anytime I stepped outside of my house (Hi, neighbors!), reading would be the obvious way to avoid all of it.

Much to my — and the better majority of the West side of the Mitten State’s — dismay, the snow was non-existent, the temperatures were fairly mild and I’m really not that anti-social, removing the pressures to read. Yet, there I found myself. Awkwardly hunched over my books in a blanket that made me overheat rather than fend away the cold and reading. Must be the bookworm in me.

This winter break I came home ready to start one book in particular — Zadie Smith’s “White Teeth.” But I was quickly distracted from that book by other reading suggestions from my mother that had time limits: “This one has to go back to the neighbor soon, so you know ... tick tick” or “Going to see the movie tomorrow ... must ... finish.” Thus, I put the Smith book aside. I started with “The Perks of Being A Wallflower.” Yes, boo me all you want for not having read this when I was a child, but I was far more occupied with “Harry Potter” and “The Princess Diaries” (shun) to give even a nod to this book.

The main character, Charlie, is embodied in the words of Perks. The style is different — disjointed — and so is he. The stream of consciousness is raw and colloquial — a nice change of pace from those books that require more reading between the lines than actual reading, because Charlie says everything he thinks and feels point-blank.

Next was Joan Didion’s “Play It As It Lays” — simply put, I am obsessed with the female author. Her prose is succinct and blunt and she sugarcoats nothing — shit happens and she wants you to know it. But “Play It As It Lays” wasn’t really a holiday-happy-feeling book, unless you think drug abuse and depression are equivocal to cookies and, uh, kittens. If you like Didion, “Play It As It Lays” is noteworthy to read merely to contrast her writing before and after those tragic events detailed in her recent works.

When 4 a.m. rolled around the next day, I realized as I completed Maria Semple’s “Where’d You Go Bernadette” that my sleeping pattern was unpredictable. But it’s not my fault! The words on the pages really just flew off! “Where’d You Go Bernadette” holds a well-deserved place on many of the Best of 2012 book lists. The reason: it’s hilarious. The worst description, because “hilarious” is overused and vague (my English professors would not be proud) but there’s something to be said for ambiguity. It’s filled with snarky humor and jabs at over-involved mothers that we all feel are too familiar.

And with that my break began to come to an end. I started to wander down the road of “Downton Abbey” and soon Zadie Smith’s book had yet to be completed. I was flustered, but then I remembered there’s always another book column.