Domestic Chores: Being the Family Book-Picker

After this many years of marriage, the routines are pretty much set in stone.student-147783_1280

He cooks. I do the dishes. He does the food shopping. I supervise homework. He waters the garden. I handle all tech support. He unclogs stuff. I do the online bill paying.

It all works.

Our other sharply defined division of labor?

I pick out his reading material.

Here’s the deal. My husband did not grow up in the US and is not a native English speaker, although his English is actually excellent. He’s always enjoyed reading (and if you want to know the role that reading played in our romance, you can read about it here), but he didn’t start reading books in English until well into his 20s. He also (gasp! horrors!) doesn’t think about books and reading non-stop, the way that I do.

He’s told me, for instance, “I don’t care who wrote the book, so long as it’s good.” And “I don’t keep track of authors.”

I’m not sure that he’s ever gone into a bookstore without me dragging him by the hand.

He certainly does not read book reviews. (He also does not read my blog, so HI HONEY! I can say what I want with impunity.)


He does love to read. Granted, he usually only makes it through 5 – 10 pages at a time. He reads in bed and then falls asleep. Cute, right?

My job is to pick his books. Crazy, I know. But hey, we have a system.

A good book can last him a few months. But once he’s done, he’ll inform me, “I need a book.” It’s my job to go search the bookshelves and come up with a few choices, then hand him a stack and maybe provide a few comments on each.

It’s harder than it sounds. I read everything; he does not. A good half (or maybe even 2/3) of my books are out of the question from the outset. He won’t read science fiction*, fantasy**, horror, paranormal/supernatural, or anything approaching brick-like size.

*He did read science fiction in his teens: Asimov, Clarke, Bradbury… but has no interest now.

**He did, however, read and enjoy The Time Traveler’s Wife. Go figure.

He also refuses books with any but a straight-forward narrative style (Beloved by Toni Morrison was quickly rejected), complains when books have long descriptive passages (“gibberish”, as he puts it) or just don’t grab him for whatever stray reason. He has also read books all the way through and then quit five pages before the end, saying that he “got the point already” and was done. (The Poisonwood Bible comes to mind…)

Recent successes? Biggest hits recently have been The Thorn Birds (which he remembered fondly as a TV mini-series) and Maya’s Notebook by Isabel Allende. Lately, we’ve done well with Allende, Lisa See, and Amy Tan. He seems to enjoy books with a non-US setting, where he gets to explore new cultures and read about beliefs, traditions, and superstitions that he hasn’t encountered before.

So far, he’s steadfastly refused to read Outlander or A Game of Thrones, perhaps because they’re kinda huge, or maybe it’s just because I keep pushing them. Like, constantly.

Because hubby dearest does not keep track of titles or authors, we’ve had the somewhat hilarious experience of having him get halfway through a book before realizing that he’s read it before. In the case of A Thread of Grace by Mary Doria Russell, by the time he got that far, he was hooked again, so this became one of the rare books that he’s read more than once.

girl-160169_1280He’s decided that I should start tracking his reading… and seeing how much I love a) Excel and b) playing with books, I’ve started a worksheet of his recent reading. I’m NOT setting him up with his own Goodreads account, because he’d use it about as often as he uses his Facebook account (i.e., never) — but if I’m supposed to just remember what he’s read, then we’re both in trouble.

Meanwhile, he tells me that I’m doing great. I feel like my choices fail at least as often as they succeed — but, hey, I haven’t run out of options yet. It really is in my best interest to keep him reading, after all — that way I get more uninterrupted reading time for myself!

It’s fun, actually. Considering how much time I spend reading books, thinking about books, talking about books, and writing about books, it’s nice to be able to share this with him. Granted, he’ll never come to a book signing with me or get all excited about the big annual library book sale… but at least he appreciates the joy of a good book and will even initiate book discussions once in a while!

Meanwhile, don’t even get me started on my “no, I don’t feel like reading!” kid. I swear he’s mine — I remember the delivery quite clearly! — but I can’t for the life of me figure out how I ended up with a kid who just has no interest in reading… much as I push and push and push.

Oy. Well. At least one of the males in my household appreciates my book-pushing and book-picking efforts.


9 thoughts on “Domestic Chores: Being the Family Book-Picker

  1. My husband reads, but nowhere near as much as I do. He’ll usually read a book with a few days or a week, but after one or two, he’ll go on a reading hiatus for months. Mostly he’ll watch TV or play video games with his free time… and then every once in a while he gets the itch to read again.

    • It’s funny — a lot of my female reader friends describe their husbands/boyfriends the same way! One friend tells me that, basically, what books are to her, video games are to her husband. I’m hoping my son doesn’t end up the same way (although he’s certainly headed in that direction!)

  2. I honestly don’t think my boyfriend has read a book this year… But he is a very quick reader when he wants to read – one time he read an entire six book fantasy series in like a week or two, mostly during commute. He reads a lot of comics on his tablet, though! I read comics too, but not the same that he does – he mostly reads Marvel, while I mostly read smaller press stuff, or Vertigo.

    I don’t think he’d even follow TV series if it wasn’t for me, but he does play a lot of video games! I play through about one or two video games a year, so it could be said that our reading and gaming habits reversed are very similar.

    • That’s funny about the reading and video games — from what I hear, both here and IRL, that seems to be a common trend! Nice that you both enjoy comics, even if your universes don’t overlap. 🙂 I think sometimes it’s just a question of finding the right material — my husband is usually a very slow reader, but ever once in a while when it’s a book that he really loves, he shocks me by how quickly he gets through it!

  3. Regarding the child that doesnt read.
    My mom never pushed me to read so I was able to discover books on my own. Im only 18 but I think that when adults tell us to do something or that we should do something our first instinct is to go against that. I have friends that dont read at all and although I suggest countless books to them that they would like they still refuse. Ive backed off and had one friend ask me the other day what book should he read since he doesnt have cable anymore. I jumped with joy, he eye rolled and I was off with suggestions.

    Give him time and he may find something he likes on his own or through friends.

    Books Buying Beauty

    • That’s great advice and a really helpful insight. It’s hard sometimes to know where the boundary is between being helpful and pushing, especially as a parent. I definitely know that parents can cross the line pretty easily from encouraging to being overbearing, and that never works! Isn’t it wonderful, though, when someone actually asks us to make a book recommendation? I just had this happen at work last week, and it made me so happy!

      • I love when I get asked for a recommendation.

        Not a parent but from the other point of view I do understand that it must be hard to decide where the line is of helping and pushing.

        I enjoy your posts a lot.

  4. My husband is a great reader too – it’s one of the things we have in common, although our genre’s are usually quite different.
    He rarely reads my blog, but has humoured me this month by reading Aussie authors for my AusReading month.
    When we first got together I insisted he read Pride and Prejudice and he insisted that I read his favourite, Brave New World. He also put me onto Stephen King so that I could pend most of my early 20’s being scared out of my wits with crazy nightmares!!
    After all my laughing out loud with the Rosie Project, he read it too and loved – perhaps that would be a good for your hubby to try next?

    • I’d love to have my husband read The Rosie Project! I think he’d love it too. Unfortunately, I already returned it to the library, but I’m thinking I really need my own copy anyway. How nice that your husband is such a reader! I love the idea that you traded favorites when you first got together. (It makes me think of the episode of “Friends” when Joey and Rachel trade books — pretty awesome). Thanks for your comments — I love hearing how other readers share books with their loved ones!

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