My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead


Sometimes, we find that a book we loved has moved another person in the same ways as it has moved ourselves, and one definition of compatibility might be when two people have highlighted the same passages in their editions of a favorite novel. But we each have our own internal version of the book, with lines remembered and resonances felt. P 172

Books are our currency and our lexicon. Our connection and our point of intersection. Some people wear T-shirts and tattoos to proclaim their love of a certain book, but I think if you cut me open you might see The Goldfinch flowing through my veins.

I love big books. They are the Holy Grail, pirate’s treasure and birthday presents all rolled up into one. I will choose a fat chunky tome over a skinny one most any day.

For the past few months I’ve been attending a Middlemarch discussion group. We meet every four weeks and discuss about 200 pages. It’s no exaggeration to say that I am the youngest member of the group—by several decades. But I’ve always wanted to read it and I didn’t think I could do it alone. So far it’s working, I’m almost at the end. In the beginning it was often a slog, but I just let the words wash over me and eventually I found the rhythm. The best part of the meetings are the times when someone reads a passage aloud. There are often many knowing nods of affirmation as the words come to life, but for some the light of recognition shines in their eyes when these passages are spoken. On these evenings I feel as if I have found my place amongst a community of readers, albeit temporary. What surprises me is that the structure of such an entity can be solid or ethereal. I remember reading once that Noel Perrin was delighted each time someone honked at his Watership Down license plate. It was like a secret code and only those who were initiated got it. An unexpected literary connection when he was just driving down the highway.

Working in the library and in the bookstore I have the chance to recommend titles that move me to most everyone seeking something to read. Once I hear their request, I assess, analyze, consider, then look into my magic eight ball to conjure up a book for them. Each time I strive to find the perfect book. The book they are longing to read. The book they need. If it works, if it truly is a match, they will somehow be changed when they finish reading. If they love it enough it will have a place on their shelf, waiting for the next time. The re-read. I have several books that I have delved into more than once. The leader of my Middlemarch group has read Eliot’s novel six times. Six. I’d like to think the someday, maybe someday soon, I might read it again. In fact, I bought my own copy. I’m ready to highlight to my heart’s content.

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