Your Reading Life

Good for Book Clubs

We RIFers are voracious readers and we love to tell a good story. Your Reading Life features personal essays, reader reviews — anything that embraces our literary lifestyle. Pull up a mug of your favorite cozy beverage and join in on the conversation.

Your Reading Life Good for Book Clubs

Why You Should Read Edith Wharton’s Ghost Stories This Halloween

When you think of the writer Edith Wharton, “scary” probably isn’t the first word that comes to mind. It may, in fact, be the last. The author of novels such as The House of Mirth and The Age of Innocence is known mainly as an observer of high society mores and romantic foibles—not as conjurer of ghosts.

But among Wharton’s publications is a little-known volume of paranormal tales, The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton. And, as someone who regularly seeks out frightful entertainment (whether in the form of a film, a book, or TV show), I can say without a doubt, it’s the most chilling work of art I’ve experienced. Every October, I reread it, to put myself in the mood for the Halloween season. And, over the years, my friends and family have become accustomed to my annual evangelizing on its behalf.

The eleven stories contained in the book aren’t scary in the way that, say, The Ring is scary (although I confess that I also love The Ring). On the whole, they eschew gore and “He’s behind you!” suspense, focusing instead on the everyday moral horrors each of us carries out, and that each of us, at some time or another, becomes haunted by.

Your Reading Life Good for Book Clubs

The Books I Keep Because I Can’t Give Them Away

Any decent book collection houses a variety of species. There may be flocks of paperbacks and herds of hardcovers, a band of coffee table books grazing in the living room, and somewhere out of sight a colony of eBooks swarm. There are first editions and galleys, pulpy re-issues and collectors’ versions. Some are signed, some are out of print. Some have origins in online bookstores, whereas others were bagged at a stoop sale in Park Slope.

The devoted reader knows the provenance and phylum of her collection, and is able to classify them accordingly. But there is a breed of books that confounds me: those books that haunt the shadows, stalking me from apartment to apartment. These are the books I don’t necessarily want or need or never meant to have in the first place. The same books that I haven’t read and probably never will, but for one reason or another I can’t get rid of. Try as I may to cull the herd, there are some books that just won’t be removed from the permanent collection, no matter how frivolous or frayed they may be.

During my last move, I attempted to be ruthless, donating and selling and giving away as many books as I could muster. Reference books were an easy target—I do have the Internet after all. But I’ve often found myself drawn to old, esoteric dictionaries and encyclopedias in some foolhardy attempt to educate myself. And though I have yet to actually open either the English OR Foreign version of the Biographical Dictionary of Literature, they both made the cut and are now skulking the back of a double-stacked shelf.

Your Reading Life Good for Book Clubs

The Books That Raised Me

When I was growing up, reading was my favorite pastime and books were my favorite companions. I don’t want to make myself sound like a super nerd, but I was a super nerd. I had a book with me at all times. I preferred reading to recess, and sometimes could convince my teachers to let me stay inside with a novel instead of going outside to play H.O.R.S.E. on the basketball court with the other kids. My family lived within walking distance of the town library, so my sisters and I went there often, amassing piles of literature that we would have to stand at the counter and whittle down before we actually checked out. Books were lifelines, eagerly anticipated gifts, welcome distractions at family holidays.

Flannery O’Conner once wrote, “Anybody who has survived his childhood has enough information about life to last him the rest of his days.” The experience of childhood is one of discovery, of newness and exploration; children hurtle through a series of rites of passage, work together to solve the mysteries of the complex world, and experience the first pain of betrayal when it’s revealed that people aren’t always what they seem. All of those firsts are poignant, raw experiences that stay with us for the rest of our lives.

Your Reading Life Good for Book Clubs

The Best Reading Positions for Every Genre

Everyone’s got his or her favorite reading position: propped up in bed, perched in an overstuffed armchair, or sprawled out on the floor. But here at Read It Forward, we’ve done some extensive research into the best physical way to read each genre: from nail-biting page-turners that demand absolute stillness to sweeping romances where you can stretch out like a years-long love affair, each of these poses has as much personality as the book it’s meant to be paired with. Here’s our illustrated guide to the best reading positions for every genre. Find your favorite reading position, share it on social media and encourage your bookworm friends to find theirs!

Your Reading Life Good for Book Clubs

Books You Love That No One Else Has Read

David Jaher’s debut “The Witch of Lime Street” is a well-researched work of historical nonfiction that looks at the Spiritualist movement in the 1920s, when those who lost loved ones in the first World War began clamoring for contact with them in the spirit world. Mediums and seances came into fashion and the supernatural threaten to usurp science. In 1924, a psychically-gifted Boston woman named Margery (dubbed “The Witch of Lime Street” by reporters) became the focus of the Spiritualist movement, when she was urged by her number one supporter “Sherlock Holmes” author Sir Conan Doyle to enter a contest that would prove the authenticity of claims that contact with the spirit world was achievable. Famous escape artist Harry Houdini was a judge of the contest and was determined to discredit Margery the medium—placing the two at odds with one another at this fascinating intersection in history. Jaher’s tale is page-turning and eye-opening and addresses the question that both Houdini and Margery were pondering nearly a century ago: What happens to us after we die?

We asked author David Jaher to share with us the books he has read and loved that no one else has read. Enjoy his picks and let us know in the comments what books you’ve loved that haven’t gotten the attention they deserve.

Your Reading Life Good for Book Clubs

The Book That Changed My Life

Like your first sip of alcohol, or the first time your heart is broken, you don’t forget the first book that made you feel differently—that changed you as a person from the moment you opened the front cover.

For me, it happened when I was twelve. I purposefully walked over to the alphabetically-organized wooden shelves at my elementary school’s library, careful not to smudge the name I had scribbled across the back of my hand in blue ink—an author’s name I had only learned about that morning from a friend who urged me to read her book. Sharon Creech. Fearing someone else had beaten me to the punch, I scanned the shelves of books covered in library-mandated plastic, and there I found Walk Two Moons right in front of me. I grabbed it like it was a forbidden artifact in an Indiana Jones movie and stared at the cover.

I don’t recall why I was so compelled to pick it up or what exactly my friend had said that had made it so intriguing to me (it was 16 years ago after all), but I immediately sequestered myself away from the rest of my classmates in the Encyclopedia section of the library and opened it. On the page before the table of contents was a quote, centered on the page and written in the tiniest italic font:

“Don’t judge a man until you have walked two moons in his moccasins.”

Your Reading Life Good for Book Clubs

RIF’s Favorite Reads of September

  We know the drill. You want to stay current, but with so many books being published every month, it’s hard to know which titles are worth purchasing from your local bookstore, downloading on your eReader, or waiting for at the library. Read It Forward to the rescue! We’ve collected twelve of our favorite books—a healthy…

Your Reading Life Good for Book Clubs

The Best Quotes About Reading

What word nerd hasn’t underlined a favorite passage, or taken the time to copy a favorite quote into a journal? Readers adore quotes that eloquently describe the human condition. And the best quotes for readers are often ones about reading, because…uh, we love it. Here are thirteen quotes about reading that will inspire you to pick up a book right away.