Shop Thoughts: New Reading Habits


There are times when life feels like a sprint, a race toward some arbitrary finish line.  I have a fifth and an eighth grader, both wrapping up at their respective schools.  With three weeks left in the academic year, we have a series of last concerts, last sporting events, planning meetings, moving up days, and graduation ceremonies to cram in.  It doesn’t leave a lot of time for reading.

I find myself grabbing a few minutes at a time to sit down with a book and so I’ve been gravitating toward stories I can consume in bits and pieces.  Stories that either move quickly or are bite-sized.  Poetry, of course, works well, and I have my trusty New and Selected Poems Volume One by Mary Oliver at the ready.  Spring is springing and Mary Oliver’s exuberant appreciation for nature matches my mood.

As family routines change, I’m trying to figure out not just when to find reading time, but also writing time.  I’ve picked up Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey to see how history’s great writers, composers, painters, filmmakers, choreographers, and other artists arranged their days in order to produce their masterpieces.  The book focuses solely on the artists’ routine—161 mini profiles in 234 pages.  While I’m disappointed to see women underrepresented in these pages, both the similarities and peculiarities of artists is interesting to see.  The most common thread?  Many of them started their days at 5 a.m. and made the most of the beginning of the mornings when their minds were freshest.  The sun rose at 5:14 a.m. this morning.  I suppose there’s no time like the present to start a new ritual.

Meanwhile, when I’m working in the bookstore, there are usually too many other things to do to sit down and read, but I currently have a book lying open on my desk in the back office that I keep returning to, stealing a few minutes to read a few pages each day while I eat lunch or when I sit down to pay a few bills.  The book is Open Throat by Henry Hoke, a novel that releases June 6 and is narrated by a hungry, queer mountain lion living below the Hollywood sign in L.A. (or ellay, as the mountain lion calls it).  It reads like a novel in verse, written in short fragments with a lot of line breaks.  There are no periods—I supposed because mountain lions aren’t all that familiar with punctuation?  It reads quickly.  The mountain lion is a sympathetic character, constantly looking for food and water in the desert of Los Angeles, affected by climate change and overrun with humans, and also looking for love.  If this sounds kind of weird, it is!  But delightfully so. 

I’ve been dipping into Kelly McMasters’ The Leaving Season, a memoir in essays, at dusk.  It just feels like the right time of day for an elegiac book, one that recalls the end of a marriage, among other things.  McMasters once owned a bookstore and in the essay in which she recalls how it came to be (and how it ceased to be), she weirdly mentions that Mason Currey (author of Daily Rituals, mentioned above) came to visit.  Publishing is a small world.  

Maybe this speaks to my taste in books more than anything else.  Even when I think I’m taking a break from the norm, I’m still in the habit of picking the same sort of books.  Does that mean my plan to wake up tomorrow morning at 5 a.m. (and every morning after) is a pipe dream?  

I’ll have to let you know. 


mason currey, human behavior, learning, shop, psychology, back of the shop, tryon edwards, kelly mcmasters, author, los angeles, henry hoke, mary oliver