Reading Challenge month 7 ~ A book based entirely on its cover

GirlOnTheTrain

Maybe it was the title. Maybe it was the background colors. Maybe it was the way the title appeared in a doubled, hurried font. I can’t explain it, but I kept seeing this book’s cover and I couldn’t get it out of my mind.

It’s strange, isn’t it? The artwork, such as it is, is mostly just words. Lettering. There’s the suggestion of landscape—a darkening blue sky, a blurr of trees, a dark mass of land, and perhaps at the bottom, train tracks—but that’s all smeared behind the book’s title. What could be so compelling?

Maybe it was the hint of the train ride (you know how I am about trains)? The view through the window as we speed by an unfamiliar landscape. Maybe it gave me an impression of summer adventure where all you have is the pack on your back and a train ticket in your hand.

It niggled at me. I’d see it on a bookshop shelf or in an article about current books, or on a website and I’d wonder about it. I didn’t know anything about the story or its author. I felt somewhat annoyed by its insistence, but I couldn’t get it out of my head.

Eventually, I succumbed to its come-hither whispers and went looking for it at our local bookshop. I couldn’t remember the author, so I scanned the shelves in the fiction section knowing it would make itself known. But it didn’t.

I turned to my right, my eyes flew across the “Mystery” shelves and there it was, smirking at me.

A mystery. Why was I surprised?

I bought it knowing nothing more about it than its cover, its title, and its price. I took it home, set it on the counter, and let it simmer there for a bit. It was no less beguiling in my own home.

I read a few pages to get a taste, and I rapidly fell into its charms: a summer page-turner with enough spine-tingly mystery to make you want to stay up late to find out what happens next.

I immediately distrusted the narrator. I knew exactly what sort of ride I was in for, and I couldn’t put it down.

It’s a story narrated by multiple, perhaps unreliable characters. It’s about knowing versus imagining. Fiction and non-fiction. It’s about glimpses and what you know and what you don’t know and what happens when you observe the world from the speed of a train. Or what happens when the speed of your own life insects the speed of another’s.

The Girl on the Train is not my usual type of book, and I doubt I would have picked it up if not for the cover, but I’m glad I read it, and I give full credit to the cover’s designer, who knows about the seductive power of a speeding train, the glimpse of a blurry landscape through a window, and a book in your hand as the train gallops down the tracks.
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Our books for month 7:

We’d love to know what you read this month. Please leave a comment telling us about it!

The category for the coming month is:

Month8

We’ll see you back here on September 11!

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This post is part of our multi-year reading challenge. We’d love to have you join us for the whole challenge or any portion. Take a look at the checklist to see the current category (in green). We’ll announce the next category on the 11th of each month.

Reading Challenge month 6 ~ A book your mom loves

paddle-to-the-sea

Stumped, I tell you. I was stumped.

Mom loved to read. We all did. That was plain as day. My growing up houses had overflowing bookshelves and stacks of reading material on kitchen counter tops, desks, and bed side tables. Mom always had a half-devoured book by her chair and a to-be-read shelf in the bedroom. We exchanged books through the mail in regular shipments between Florida and Vermont. “This one’s worth reading,” she’d say. “Have you read the latest Khaled Hosseini?”

But one she particularly loved? A treasured book? A favorite book?

I skrinched my brain hard to think of one and felt so deeply sad that I didn’t know. Isn’t that something you should know about your own mother?

I could make an educated guess. She had favorite authors: Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro, Carl Hiassen. As a kid she loved dog and horse books: The Black Stallion, Black Beauty, Lad a Dog.

Then I remembered Paddle-to-the-Sea, a book she had given Hyla years ago. I mean, she gave Hyla books all the time, but those were ones she found in her travels that she thought would appeal to Hyla’s interests. This one was one she’d also had as a child.

A loved book.

Paddle-to-the-Sea is the story of a little wooden canoe carved by a boy in the Canadian wilderness, just northwest of Lake Superior. He sets the canoe (and its carved paddler) onto a snow-covered hill near his home and waits for spring. When the melt begins, Paddle slides down the hill into a river that feeds the lake, and so begins his journey through the great lakes and out to the sea.

He follows the river, the waves, the currents, the storms, the waterfalls, the locks. We follow along.

Paddle doesn’t speak. He doesn’t have thoughts that we’re aware of. It’s always clear that he’s a something—not a someone—and yet I developed such a fondness for Paddle. I was rooting for him all the way. I worried for him when he was temporarily trapped in a beaver pond, or approaching the blade of a river-side saw mill.

It’s a short book. I read it in half-an-hour in a dwindling afternoon in July. I read it with a voice in my head. A voice something like my own, reading her child a story on some long gone July afternoon.

A story is a current. A story is a voice. A story is a wave, a journey, a seeking. A story is a memory and a thread. A story is the way someone’s love is joined to someone else.

I’ve got a cat on my shoulder as I type this. And my own girl on the porch swing. She’s deep in her own book on a perfect summer afternoon. What’s her favorite book?

I’ll go ask.

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Our books for month 6:

We’d love to know what you read this month. Please leave a comment telling us about it!

The category for the coming month is:

Month7

We’ll see you back here on August 11!

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This post is part of our multi-year reading challenge. We’d love to have you join us for the whole challenge or any portion. Take a look at the checklist to see the current category (in green). We’ll announce the next category on the 9th of each month.