When reading is a game
Wednesday, July 24, 2019
The splendors of July and August have never kept me from picking up a book, but I will admit to falling behind on my reading material when cool bodies of water beckon on hot days and dusk doesn’t set until after 9pm.
To help me stay on track, I recently decided to take a gander at the annual Summer Reading Bingo challenge put on by the Whatcom County Library System and Bellingham Public Library. Through Aug. 31, everyone from early readers to kids, teens and adults can complete any five bingo squares in their age range and then enter to win a variety of prizes. Consuming words in all formats is allowed, so it counts whether you’re reading on your Kindle or other device, listening in the car, or holding a printed copy in your hands.
I soon discovered I’m ahead of the game. After perusing the nearly 20 categories, I found that some of what I’ve read since summer began has helped me to get three-fifths of the way to being a possible winner.
In the “Librarian Recommended” category, I recently finished The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin. Thanks to WCLS Collection Support Manager Lisa Gresham—who wrote a review about the book for this paper in spring of 2018—I quickly devoured the tome about four siblings in New York City, circa 1969, who spend a hot summer night visiting a fortune-teller and thus discover the times of their possible demise. The decades-spanning tale drew me in, and had me convinced I’d rather be surprised by death than have a date with it.
For the “Teen Protagonist” square, I have John Green’s Turtles All the Way Down to thank. The 2017 young adult novel focuses on a 16-year-old named Aza Holmes whose anxiety and OCD—not to mention the untimely death of her father a few years before—have deeply affected her life. She’s a nerd who happens to be beautiful, and when she reconnects with a childhood friend whose billionaire dad is missing, things get interesting. There’s no fairytale ending, however, and the subject matter can sometimes be difficult to digest (in a good way).
For me, Stephen King’s Needful Things fits in three categories—“Re-Read a Favorite,” “Makes You Uncomfortable,” and “Bingeworthy.” Like many of King’s books, small-town life merges with otherworldly horror. The 1990s-era behemoth returns to Castle Rock, where a new shopkeeper named Leland Gaunt seems to have a perfect item for just about everyone, and at a price they can afford. Only problem is, part of the fee is their soul.
I’m not quite finished with it yet, but Lisa Halliday’s 2018 debut novel Asymmetry matches with “Something New” and partially with “Set in Another Country.” Topics of gender, power and race are brought to the forefront in the stories of Alice (a young woman who enters into a years-long affair with an older man who happens to be a world-famous author) and Amar (an American citizen of Iraqi-Kurdish descent who is being held for questioning in the Heathrow Airport on his way to visit his brother in Iraq). I can’t wait to see how the story ends, because until now it’s been a fascinating ride.
When I’ve finished Halliday’s tale, I’ll only have one book to finish before my Bingo square is filled in and glory is mine. I think I’ll end with “Read Outside” and head to the hammock with a novel of my choice. That sounds like a game I can’t help but win.
For more details about Summer Reading events at the Whatcom County libraries and the Bellingham Public Library, go to http://www.wcls.org or www.bellinghampubliclibrary.org
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