Captivating. adjective. According to whatever dictionary comes on the dashboard of Mac computers, “attracting and holding the interest or attention of; charming.”
I have spent this past week romping through the glamorous locales of England and New York. All without leaving the confines of my decidedly unglamorous house in the middle of nowhere, Minnesota.
You see, I have recently rediscovered the wonders of reading.
During the school year, I read. Oh yes, I read. Scanned subject lines of emails, gobbled textbook pages, scrolled through Facebook statuses, skimmed random articles I stumbled across. But rarely deep, luxurious reading, the kind where vivid characters flit through imaginary conversations as you wash the dishes, where you untwist plots as country roads slip beneath your tires. Now that it’s summer and I’m no longer encumbered by mounds of homework, I’ve begun reading real books again. And it has been captivating.
Thanks to The House at Riverton, I’ve bounced back to Downton Abbey-esque England, complete with huge manors and ladies maids and surprise engagements and scandalous affairs and footmen named Alfred. I’ve unraveled a mystery, too, one where you know that something dreadful happened but you hang desperately until the last page to see exactly how events pan out. In The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankenweiler, I spent the night in a musty old bed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I bathed in the fountain in the restaurant, scurried into bathroom stalls to hide from the guards, marveled at the mysterious Angel sculpture, and learned about the slippery business of secrets from an eccentric old lady with a wacky last name. Right now, I’ve decided to adopt Major Pettigrew, a crusty English gentleman with a delicious sense of sarcasm, and his new friend Mrs. Ali, a charming Pakistani woman with excellent taste in books, as an extra set of grandparents. It matters little that I’ve only met them through the novel Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand.
By now, you have probably realized a few things about me. First, I have had way too much time on my hands. Not to worry; I do have a summer job that simply had not started yet, and my reading has been balanced by mindless grazing of kitchen cupboards, extended browsing of social networks, and completing a variety of crafty projects. Clearly, I use my free time quite productively. You have also probably realized that I am a very serious bookworm. About that, you are also quite right. I won’t even try to deny it. But I also hope it’s clear that above simply loving books, I also love a good story, with rich settings and delightful characters and plots that would make me incredibly anxious in real life. I love stories’ ability to teach without inducing eye-rolling. I love teasing out threads of deeper meaning, things that I can see reflected in my own life. These stories do not have to be relegated to books. I love the real-life stories too, the snapshots my family shares when it’s way too late at night or the catch-up conversations with friends you haven’t seen in weeks.
So this summer, I have decided to be captivated more. I will throw myself headlong into books, checking novels off my neverending to-read list, meeting eccentric, exciting characters, and voyaging to new places. I will grin at myself when I realize that I’ve been trying to figure out how a story will end for the last fifteen minutes. And I will listen more to real-life stories, the shared plots and characters and places of those around me.
Now if only these stories could take me to England and New York in real life.
Books referenced in this post:
The House at Riverton by Kate Morton
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankenweiler by E.L. Koningsburg
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson
If you really want a further look at my latest books completed and the ones I hope to read before I die, check out my Goodreads profile.