Competitive Reading

Competitive reading is my new jam. It started in January, when one of my Goodreads book clubs decided to read through the first Harry Potter book together. The group is only made up of a dozen people, and I've always been one of the first to finish reading any of our assigned books—mostly because I have an inordinate amount of free time but also in small part because I'm a very fast reader. When I saw that one of my good friends in the group started Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone just after I did, I decided to increase the challenge for myself and try to finish the entire series before he finished the first book. Because I wanted to keep this casual (and also because I wanted to win), I did not tell him about the competition; I just filled my nights with wizards and witches and Hagrids.

The last few days were absolutely hilarious, as I finally spread the word about what I was intending to do. I checked Goodreads frantically, making sure my overall progress in the series was close to the progress he was making in the first book. I was living and breathing the books, as evidenced by the number of fake spells I was casting in my text message conversations. By the end, I had read 4,100 pages in ten days. He finished the first book on a Sunday afternoon, and I wrapped up the final book that same evening.

It was a sweet, sweet personal victory.

This was the story I was telling my coworkers yesterday afternoon (in a silly attempt to divert the conversation from snakes getting loose in people's houses). My senior pastor, a notoriously avid reader, was completely flabbergasted by this accomplishment, which prompted another coworker to issue a new challenge: the Wheel of Time series. It is a fourteen-book story by Robert Jordan that spans 11,520 pages. People have been urging me to read it for years, but I didn't want to set aside the time or energy required.

But here I have a set of perfect excuses and perfect rewards: wiping the smug looks from my coworkers' faces and enjoying a really great adventure along the way. (And yes, I do actually read every word of the story. I am also proofreading for spelling and grammar, highlighting my favorite quotes, and re-reading entire sections just for the fun of it along the way.) Competitive reading is my new jam.

A Teeny Tiny Moment

In December, my boyfriend took me to the Art Institute in Chicago to see a series of miniature rooms, many of which were decorated for the holidays. It's probably as weird as it sounds, but I had been looking forward to seeing the exhibit for weeks. We marveled at the miniature stockings on the miniature mantelpieces, mocked the ugly miniature portraits on the miniature walls, cooed at the miniature grand staircases, realized in joint horror that we'd probably be very good at making and maintaining miniature rooms, started planning a series of miniature rooms from the '90s with teeny tiny boy band posters on the walls and teeny tiny glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling. (There is a slight possibility that I flapped my arms up and down in excitement when I saw the room with the itty bitty tea set and then a very small doll who had her own even ittier bittier tea set.)

Halfway through the exhibit, he stopped and said, "Nearly every one of these rooms has an enormous rug covering the floor. Do you know how expensive those things are? I've done some research . . ." The monologue was cut short as I turned to look at him. His expression was the very chick-lit definition of earnest and sincere—brow slightly furrowed, eyes narrowed and focused, jaw set and determined—and I erupted in laughter. It was one of those moments when I couldn't help but love him, this man who could stand against a backdrop of absurd domesticity and still somehow discuss floor coverings with any level of intensity.

Concerning Hobbits

Last night, I went to the theater with my dad and brother and saw the final Hobbit movie. I legitimately don't know what I think of it, other than to say that I didn't hate it. It would be easy to get swept up in a rant about how pompous someone would have to be to think that Tolkien's work needed help from additional storylines, characters, etc., but I don't want to waste time being angry about things I have no control over. Also, my boyfriend suggested that Peter Jackson is now free to write content for a third trilogy that has nothing to do with anything, which made me laugh hard enough to break through any residual grumpiness.* So I guess I'll accept the Hobbit movies and enjoy them as they are, and I will continue to love Tolkien's stories until the end of my days.

*I cherish the idea of these movies becoming a real thing, especially if someone can convince Andy Serkis to play every character. (Sorry, Orlando Bloom.)