Are You Reading a Hot Dog or Foie Gras?

Last week my daughter Madeleine and I headed down to the University of Oregon for her orientation. I’m still not truly believing she’ll be leaving home this fall, but I’m sure I’m not the only mom in denial. In fact, the university caters to us parents about to send our kids into the world, even offering a talk called “Teaching Your Ducklings to Fly.” (It’s also a pretty cute play on words since the U of O mascot is a duck.)

I was very impressed with a seminar for parents only called The Art of Reading. While our children were signing up for fall classes, (parents aren’t even allowed in the room with them) a group of about 15 moms and dads gathered in the library to talk with an English professor about rediscovering how to read for meaning.

I was there with Karen and Janelle, two other moms in my mother-daughter book club, and we happily soaked up some new thoughts on reading. One thought in particular stood out from the day:

Choosing a book and choosing what to eat can be a lot alike. Sometimes you are hungry and you just want to eat a hot dog to fill you up. You don’t need anything fancy, because any food will do at the moment. Those tend to be what I think of as books that you can easily pick up and put down without losing the main thread of the story. They’re usually fun, maybe even a guilty pleasure. Some titles I have read recently in that category include Lipstick Apology by Jennifer Jabaley and Runaround by Helen Hemphill. (Reviews to come soon.)

Other times, you’re more in the mood for a four-course gourmet meal. I just finished a book like that called Stone’s Fall by Iain Pears. It was nearly six hundred pages and I savored every page until the very satisfying ending. I’m also finishing up reading Empire by Gore Vidal to Madeleine. History-nerds that we are, we have looked forward to reading it every day, but savored it as we went along. We can’t wait to start reading Vidal’s follow up story, Hollywood. Soon I expect to read The Book Thief to Catherine, another book to linger over and appreciate.

I like applying the food analogy to books, because it helps me enjoy whatever I’m reading for the hunger it satisfies at the moment.

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