Have Books, Will Travel

So… we’re moving. At least, that is the desired end result.

Last night my job was to prepare the house for our first showing… on about 24 hours notice.

After work I raced through Wal-Mart to pick up some of the Glade plug-ins YouTube is always advertising on my writing music playlists, a few Rubbermades, new rugs and shower curtains to update my bathrooms and some Windex. I got my children from daycare and then quickly fed them a gourmet dinner of chicken nuggets and tater tots before depositing them at a friend’s house for a couple of hours so I could get some serious cleaning done. (Thank you Cathy!!)

The largest task was cleaning and organizing the items belonging to the youngest two Zieba’s.  I started in the living room and quickly realized that the both the books and toys would not fit in the shelving unit. I made an executive decision and started piling the books into the Rubbermade. As I did this, I realized a few things.

  1. We have a lot of books. They easily outnumber the DVDs in our house four to one. Maybe even five to one. I also realized that I am ridiculously proud of this ratio.  

  2. As I stacked up the books, I realized that each one is a memory. Moments in time are pressed safely between their covers, just waiting to be revisited again and again. I relived the first time I read my first child I’ll Love you Forever. I’d read it before, but never to MY child. I had never understood why everyone cried at the seemingly simple and predictable story, until I read it to MY son. It was then I cried like a baby while blubbering to him, “Kameron, it turns out your momma is a sap, just like everyone else.” I relived afternoons spent reading in our deck tents, enjoying both our stories and a cool spot on a hot summer day. I relived the moments the books were given… for birthdays, baptisms, and just becauses. Each book packed away was like time traveling to each time it was read. Book by book, year by year, a childhood encapsulated in cardboard covers.

  3. By the time I was done in the living room and both boys’ bedrooms I also realized the 30 gallon Rubbermade was too heavy to move on my own (even when I tried pushing it across the carpet). It was a job I would need my husband to help me tackle.

When I looked at that tote, so full I could barely snap on the lid, I looked at 6 years of reading memories and love. I looked at a thousand precious moments. I looked at the foundation we built of a life of loving to read.

After I was done, I couldn’t help but go downstairs (where, thankfully, it was already clean) and gaze at my own bookshelf full of memories. There was the young reader’s edition of Heidi that I read at a fifth grade birthday sleepover while the other girls fought for most of the night. There was the copy of Speak I read as a high schooler in my front lawn and marveled at the problems that existed in our complex world. I smiled when I saw Oliver, Amanda and Grandmother Pig and struggled to remember who exactly got me this first beloved chapter book. Mom and Dad? Auntie Jan? Grandma? There was the entire set of Harry Potter books, the set I loan to no one, right next to the copies I do allow to leave my presence. My eyes pass over my growing collection of author autographed books. I count the titles on the shelf that I own, but have yet to read. (36, for inquiring minds).

If things go according to plan, these memories will also have to be boxed up. The moment will be bittersweet. We have spent the last 9 years in this house, with these jobs and these friends. Even though it is somewhat sad and scary to move on, we are excited for all the future holds. Knowing that we are taking some of our history with us, will make our new space feel automatically like home.

So last night I realized something else. Have books, will travel… and luckily the memories will come with us too.

Writing is hard. Sometimes I read instead.

Writing is hard work.

And sometimes, after a full day of work and mothering… I just don’t have any parts of my brain working at full functioning levels to plot, dialogue or edit. Last Friday was one of those days. I had taught half a day, visited my son’s school for Muffins with Mom, done three Career Day Presentations at a local elementary school, ran a rummage sale for a few hours after school and managed to get the boys fed and in bed.

I sat down. It was 9:00. I couldn’t fathom doing a single thing more. Even my Friday cocktail sat in a melted pool of ice. If I couldn’t finish that, how on earth was I going to puzzle through the forty pages of edits and editions I needed to type into my novella-in-progress? I couldn’t.

What do writers do when they are too tired? This writer reads. It is my reward, my learning experience, my relaxation… all in one. So today, instead of productively detailing a technique or sharing some bit or writer wisdom, I am going to tell you about the best books I have read lately. If you find yourself burnt out at the end of your day and unable to be productive on your WIP, here are a few books for you to consider. (** Disclaimer, other than being great written works from which to learn or enjoy, the books below are not writing related what-so-ever.**)

A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans

When one woman sets out to live a year of her life as a woman of the bible would, hilarious, relatable and intriguing events occur. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book that my pastor ensured me was “funny”, but I can tell you I am taking a lot more than funny away from it. Rachel is the girl next door. Nothing fancy. Nothing perfect. A regular-Jane, attempting to live life as a good Christian woman would. It is her “every-day-ness” that makes her lessons easy to apply to your own life. And if you are not ready or willing to cover your head at all times, call your husband master or sleep in your front yard during your period, you can learn valuable life lessons vicariously through Rachel’s experiences. Through this book I have learned that not all customs (religious or cultural) that seem from a distance backwards or barbaric, truly are. I learned a lot about what it means be a Christian/Biblical woman, but mostly I learned about how to be a woman of high moral character, one that from any standpoint or walk of life I would admire. For the record, my pastor was right. This book is very funny. I would also label it thought provoking, enjoyable, and an easy read.


The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

This is the fourth and final book in The Raven Boys series, and because the literary universe loves me, it was released on my birthday. The sheer weightiness of my schedule prevented me from picking it up until yesterday… but now that I have, I will cease to do anything unnecessary until it is finished. Beautiful prose weaves a fantastical tale of a girl, her psychic “relatives” and four Prep-School boys on a quest to find an ancient king and collect their one wish reward.

“These days, they all had their hands thrust into the sky, hoping for comets.” – Maggie Stiefvater, The Raven King

If every book that was thrust into my hands, or onto my computer screen via an inbox advertisement or jammed on to my shelf was like this series, I’d never write or cook or sleep a full night, ever again. Do it. Stiefvater, she’s amazing. Just read them. All of them.


The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen

Reading just a chapter a day aloud to my students was pure torture. This book begs to be devoured. (Judging by their audible groans at the end of every chapter, I think it is safe to say I am not alone in this sentiment.)

Sage is an orphan that has been pulled from a medieval orphanage and thrust into a dangerous game of political intrigue. Conner plans to mold Sage, or one of the other three orphans he has “selected”, into the supposedly dead Prince Jaron. He plans to claim the throne through his chosen boy, rule as a regent and live himself a pretty fine life. What happens to the three not chosen? Well, one is already dead.

Secrets and facts are woven into half-truths and bold faced lies. The reader is tugged (not always so gently) through each chapter with the promise of more truth around every corner. Who will be chosen? Who will be declared the winner at the end of the dangerous game? The best part of this book just maybe that reaching the end is truly only a beginning. Two more books follow in this incredible middle grade series.


Laugh-Along Lessons by Helen Lester

Reading at home this spring has happened less than I would have liked, but one book my sons (ages 6 and 3) have gone to again and again is Laugh-Along Lessons by Helen Lester. While it slightly resembles a school-basal text book, I assure you it is much more fun. Inside, 8 great stories featuring real-to-life problems and characters walk readers through sticky situations and their sometimes funny solutions. My sons and I adore the illustrations by Lynn Munsinger, an added bonus. My favorite is “Princess Penelope’s Parrot”, while Kameron loves “The Wizard, the Fairy and the Magic Chicken”, and Riley likes “Me First” best. There is really something for everyone. One short story turns into two more helping us easily fill up our reading calendars.  


A few Side notes

I read to my middle school students each day, 5 minutes aloud at the start of class. This year I have read some amazing titles: Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper and A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen would top this list (along The False Prince mentioned above). I also had the pleasure of re-read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Maniac Magee, both truly a treasure.

Books on my TO-READ-List include: The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen,  Baby Fat: Adventures in Motherhood, Muffin Tops and Trying to Stay Sane by Pauline M. Camposand The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. 

What about you? What have you recently loved? What is next on your list?

Happy reading!

~ Amanda