A Study of (my) Reading Habits

It's no surprise that I've been reading for a very long time. And that my blogging has lagged recently. So this meme, via Terry (who got it elsewhere) is a perfect way to blog... about reading.

1. What was your favorite book as a child?  Good Night, Moon, which feels like a cop out because, well, it's perfect.
2. What’s the last really good book you read? Because I'm on a book award committee, I can't give you the last really good adult book, but in the children's/YA category Dreamland Burning, a wonderful retelling of the Tulsa riots (or pogroms, choose your word) in the 1920s.
3. Do you prefer fiction or nonfiction? Fiction.
4. Do you finish every book that you start? If you don’t, how do you decide when to stop reading? It took me nearly 50 years, but I am no longer a 'clean plate' reader.  For the award, I have to read 100 pages of books I request.  For other books, 50 pages and out.
5. List your ten favorite books in four minutes or less. Write it down because you’ll revisit it at the end. Oh no.  I just can't.  Which genre?  I could list ten favorite authors, or ten in a specific genre, but overall?  Nope.  Just can't.
6. Do you reread books? Which ones? I aspire to having the time, and fewer books on Mt. Bookpile to reread.  Which would be the oeuvre of Julian Barnes and Robertson Davies, the Chalet School series and several other past favorites, like Shadow Castle and Possession.
7. Do you read poetry? Why or why not? Not usually, because books in verse feel forced.  But occasionally I do and I'm always glad.
8. Do you remember the first “grown-up” book you read? Leaving aside that many books I read as a child were actually adult books (Treasure Island and Little Women were not written for kids!) and the Lord of the Rings trilogy (read when I was 9-10), Mistress of Mellyn by Victoria Holt.  I'll admit a lot of it went over my head and on rereading years later I was quite surprised.
9. Are there any authors whose work you have read completely? Robertson Davies. C.S. Lewis.  A.S. Byatt.  Julian Barnes.  And many, many mystery and YA writers (like Rex Stout and Garth Nix)
10. How often do you read books that are more than one hundred years old? Right now, rarely. But when I finish with this book award, probably once or twice a year.
11. Is there a type (or types) of book you never read? Not really. Unless you count textbooks.
12. How do you choose what to read? Reviews and recommendations from colleagues, professional publications, students and friends.

13. What’s more important to you: the way a book is written, or what the book is about? The way it's written.  A well-written book can transform a dull topic (see, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks) and a poorly-written one can kill a great topic (not naming names).
14. What author, living or dead, would you most like to have dinner with? C.S. Lewis
15. If you could hang out with a literary character for the day, who would it be? I want to be bold and say Pippi Longstocking, but at my age I'm just not up for that level of activity.
16. If you could be a literary character, who would it be? I have no idea.
17. Have you ever written a fan letter to an author? No.  I've never been tempted, either.
18. Is there any book that, if I professed to love it, you would be turned off? Is there any book that would impress you in particular? Nothing would impress me, but if you said A Confederacy of Dunces I wouldn't accept book recommendations from you.
19. Is there a book you feel embarrassed about liking? Nope.  An adult reading picture books, middle grade books and YA books really doesn't feel that way about reading.  Perhaps an occupational hazard?
20. Are there books you feel proud of liking or having finished? Again nope.
21. Have you ever lied about having read a book?  Yes.  Mostly books I was supposed to read when I was in school, like Revolt of the Masses by Ortega.
22. Do you keep track of the books you read?  Not before 2007.  Now I use GoodReads and a notebook for my award reads.
23. How do you form opinions about what you read? Is it engaging?  Do I buy the world (fictional or non) that the author is presenting? How does it compare to other books I've read?
24. What authors do you think are overrated? Underrated? My lips are sealed.  Doing Readers Advisory for a living means I love all books, all authors.  Publicly, at least.

25. Do you ever read self-help books?  On occasion.  Last one?  Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.
26. What’s a book that shocked you? Can't think of one.  I'm sure there were, though.
27. If you could force every person you know to read one book, what would it be?  I'd never.
28. What book would you recommend to me in particular? I don’t know you. (Terry's response, recycled here because it's accurate)
29. What books/authors have you been meaning to read for years? Why haven’t you read them yet? Anthony Trollope, because I think I need some really dedicated reading time.  And Mt. Bookpile, of course.
30. What kind of book do you consider “a guilty pleasure?”  I'm nearly 55.  I don't have "guilty" pleasures, just pleasures.
31. Has a book ever changed your mind about something? No.  Not really.
32. If you were terminally ill, what book or books would you read?  As much of Mt. Bookpile as possible.
33. Do you have any passages of poetry or prose committed to memory? Can you recite something to me?  Huh?  If you were here, I could.  Some Shakespeare (do young'uns memorize speeches still?).  Some Longfellow.  The usual suspects.
34. If you could change anything about the way you read, what would it be? I'd say faster, but at 1000+wpm I'm not sure that's necessary.  Perhaps regaining the ability to read in a moving car/bus.
35. Was there any time in your life when you felt as if a book guided you in a profound way? Guided, no.  Touched, on the other hand... definitely.
36. Return to the list you made at the beginning. What titles, if any, would you change after our conversation? No.  I stand by my lack of list.


My own private episode of House

Remember the TV show House? Some medical mystery is presented... differential diagnoses are offered... treatments proposed and tried... nothing works... then, amazingly, Dr. Gregory House has some brainwave and YAY! Healing.

The morning I'm supposed to leave for a conference I wake up with a very, very sore throat, possibly strep (I work in a school, after all). My doctor takes a look, swabs my throat and comes back with "nope, you have mono". MONO??? Yes, the disease everyone else gets in junior high or high school, I've managed to get in my early 40s. Yes, I know who I was kissing. No, I still haven't forgiven OR forgotten. And, like chicken pox or other childhood diseases, getting it as an adult is worse.

The bloodwork continues to show an active disease for two years, only vanquished by Xanax, under the theory if we suppress the stress in my body maybe things could go back to normal. The problem is that I now have Epstein-Barr and will have it, along with flare-ups, for the rest of my life. I start to practice what's called ECAM, or Energy Conservation and Management.

My throat - again! - feels a little swollen, and during a routine visit to my endocrinologist she suggests I see my primary care doctor to get it treated. My doctor, like so many nowadays, doesn't really pay attention and the next six months are filled with tests and potential diagnoses and nothing really works. The swollen glands seem to disappear on their own, and my endocrinologist, at my next visit, thinks it was probably a run-of-the-mill infection that healed itself. My take-away? More ECAM and be very careful because this can - and has - happen again.

In early December I discovered there was something a little off with my left eye and made an appointment with an ophthalmologist. One examination later, I have a diagnosis: optic retinitis in my left eye. Now I need to see a neuro-ophthalmologist for treatment. Two days later, my eyes are being redialated and I'm doing a number of what I'll call "inner eye" exams. Yep, the optic nerve in my left eye is severely inflamed. Remedy? IV drop of steroids. Just to rule out other problems, I'm tested for MS, NMO, lupus and Lyme disease. The problem with the first three is that they usually manifest in your 20s-40s, and I'm in my mid-50s. Surely there'd be at least one other symptom before now? Of course, there's the idiopathic form of OR and that's the one I probably have. One MRI and some blood tests later, they're all ruled out.

The steroids seem to work, and by March my eyesight is 20/40 (with glasses, I'm usually 20/15 and pre-treatment that eye was 20/400). Fun fact: in Massachusetts you can drive if you have 20/40 vision. Except things in my eye weren't blurry, they were foggy. No amount of corrective lenses would fix that and most of my sight is through my right eye, with peripheral help from my left (this is mostly affecting my central vision). The six-month check up should be a breeze, right? Except... remember that episode of House? How the first treatment works, until it doesn't?  That's me.

June arrives and my vision is 20/70. My doctor is - to put it mildly - concerned and surprised because that is not how this is supposed to work. She starts to talk about possible other causes, and mentions a word that I never thought I'd hear: sarcoidosis. Yep, the House crew's go-to "this is what we think it is although it's never been that before but one day it might be" differential diagnosis disease. I could have that. Only a CT scan can tell. Annnnnd... no sarcoid (the 'in' term for sarcoidosis). CT is fine. So is a second MRI of my "orbitals" (which are eye sockets and let me tell you, when you see the results on the screen, you'll think you're related to Darth Vader!). Oh, and my first doctor is leaving so I need to see someone else. Soon.

This week was my fist appointment with the new doctor. We went over the progression of this problem and the previous testing, and then he tested my eyes. Yep. Worse. 20/100 in three weeks. As he put it, "you've lost several lines in a short time". Lines, I guess, being shorthand for "we're enlarging the lettering but if this were one of those large eye charts you'd be a few lines of text away from where you were three weeks ago". Obviously, a new differential diagnosis is required, along with new treatments and testing.

What's the differential? CRION (a chronic, remitting version of what I have). Syphallis (um, say what???). Rheumatoid arthritis. A few other relatively rare things I don't want to think about. But probably I'll be immunosuppressants for the rest of my life. Yay? Treatment right now is oral steroids, which could also lead to ulcers, bone density loss and the ever popular weight gain and 'roid rage.

Stay tuned.