Reading Coincidences

January 18, 2011 at 9:00 pm | Posted in Book Blather, Nonfiction | 7 Comments

Have you ever picked up a book, not knowing at the time that it would be much more relevant to you than you expected?

I started reading Douglas Hofstadter’s I Am a Strange Loop after it had sat in my stack of library books for about two months.  When I requested it,  I just wanted to read the author’s long-awaited follow-up to Godel, Escher, Bach.  Today, I discovered that he is a long distance runner.  (Why is it that the smartest, highest achieving people always seem to be so good at so many things?)

My regular readers may recall that I set out to read 500 books in 2009.  I did it, of course, but I also got out of shape and put some weight on.  Last year I dropped 15 pounds.  Last month, I suddenly discovered the power of the hula hoop.  It rapidly became an obsession – I swear I am not making this up – until I was doing it an hour a day.  For some strange reason that I can’t fully recall, I decided to take up running as my new fitness plan.  The first day out, I literally could not run around the block, and it took over two weeks before I could run a full mile.

Now I have this new passion, and lo and behold, this book speaks to it in ways I never would have guessed.

I can’t help but wonder whether, if I had read the book any sooner, I would have glossed over the running analogies, or whether they might even have repelled me enough that the impulse would not have taken over my life the way it suddenly has.  (As I run on, my sentences do too).

Readers, weigh in.  Has a book ever spoken to you in a way that made it seem written especially for you?


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  1. ALL THE TIME. One that always seems to speak to me in whatever way I need it to is Norman Maclean’s “A River Runs Through It,” particularly when talking about trying to figure out what people you love need and how you can (or can’t) always give it to them. Also J.D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey. Both books I read at least once a year, just for that feeling of communion with authors I don’t even know.
    Good luck with the running!

  2. My example was The Tightwad Gazette. I only bought it to help round out and provide a bit of humor for a recycling unit I was teaching — then I started to read the whole thing. Wow.

    • Golly, I adore that book! I keep meaning to take a picture of it with all my annotations poking out.

  3. As a stepmother, every book I find on stepmotherhood feels like it’s been written for me. ‘My Father Married Your Mother: Dispatches from the Blended Family’ edited by Anne Burt is a wonderful collection of personal essays.

    Have you ever read Haruki Murakami’s memoir ‘What I Talk About When I Talk About Running’? It’s a great book that examines the relationship between long distance writing (novels) and long distance running (marathons).

    (Also, it’s a nice coincidence that this post was written on my birthday, Jan 18.)

    • I’m a stepmom too, and I will be looking that one up! We’re at a fun age right now, 16, with a possible major relocation coming up and all the stresses incumbent upon that. Joy.

      I haven’t yet read Murakami’s memoir, but I want to! It seems running is becoming trendy again, and there are a lot of new books on the subject. I’m hoping I can get them on audio, because my attention span for reading printed matter seems to have dropped lately!

  4. I’m not a runner, but I loved the Murakami book. He had me at the title, of course. It’s a small book but it seems bigger because of its heart, wit and humor.

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