Book-Swapping With My Mom

According to the official story, my mom was too busy in the 1960s dancing to the Beatles, using too much hairspray, and talking on the phone to pay much attention to school and homework. Needless to say, she didn’t get much reading done.

Fast-forward several decades: my mom fostered my love of libraries and books by tempting me with ice-cream after each library trip (I wasn’t hard to convince). She always believed in the importance of education, and encouraged me in my developing love of reading. And yet, she still only read the occasional book here and there.

Finally, when I was in high school and inundating her daily with my sorry excuse for literary analysis and criticism of the novels I was constantly reading, my mom decided to see for herself what all the fuss was about. My first recommendation for her? The Great Gatsby.

She never looked back. From there, she plowed through The Mayor of Casterbridge, Sister Carrie, The Magnificent Ambersons, and even Tender is the Night (we agreed that it was almost unreadable at times). That was just the beginning.

Eventually, she found her own reading groove, and that’s when things got really interesting. My mom had always been interested in the history of Jewish migration to America, as well as World War II. Roaming her local Barnes and Noble, she started finding more and more novels and literary nonfiction about her favorite time-periods, and recommending them to me. Thus I started reading books like The Zookeeper’s Wife, On Hitler’s MountainBread Givers, Anne Frank Remembered, Gertruda’s Oath, and Safe Passage (all of which were fantastic).

I started paying more attention to Jewish writers and discovered Primo Levi and Michael Gold. I also read and recommended to her what became one of her (and my) favorite books of all time: The Rise of David Levinsky.

My mom, in turn, discovered Jeanette Walls by browsing the “popular books” tables at the B&N, and the two of us read all three of her books (two nonfiction, one fiction).

Our interests are definitely different in many ways (I’m a fan of science fiction, and she isn’t; she’ll read every single book about the Holocaust she can get her hands on, while I can only take them here and there). Nonetheless, I would never have read so many wonderful books if it hadn’t been for her recommendations. And she never would have recommended those books to me had I not talked and talked about the books I was reading. And I might never have become a hard-core reader had she not read to me and taken me to the library since the time I was a baby.

So yeah- my mom and I might never agree on a lot of other things, but we’re both inveterate book buyers and readers now. And even though we live hundreds of miles apart, we talk about our books often and send them back and forth.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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