The Reading Promise

The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared

I really really really wanted to love this book. What’s not to love? It’s about reading and books and specifically the joy of shared reading between parent and child. And it’s by a girl who CHOSE the name Alice. Awesome, right?

I feel like a big meanie for even criticizing this book since Ozma comes across as just an adorable little cutey in her writings and in interviews. Overall, the book is a nice fine book, but that’s about it.  The biggest disappointment to me was that it’s really only peripherally about reading or books.  The promise referred to in the title is one that Ozma and her dad make to each other to read together for 1000 nights. They do that and then go on to read for over 3000 consecutive nights, ending only when Ozma goes off to college. During this time, Ozma’s mother leaves the family and much of the book is about the relationship between a single father and his growing teenaged daughter. Which is fine as a book. It’s just not what I wanted or expected to read.

Ozma is still very young, in her early twenties at the time of writing . Much of the book comes across as stories about how quirky and cute and original she and her family are. I couldn’t help but think that everyone in their twenties likes to think of themselves as quirky and original and cute. I remember a period of my life where everyone I met described their childhood as mildly dysfunctional or odd or quirky. I don’t know Ozma obviously, and I’m guessing her life really was all the things she said, but I wondered if in 10 or 20 years she would choose to emphasize the same episodes that she chose this time. There isn’t a lot of insight, just a string of anecdotes, some funny and some sad.   I found many of the scenes unbelievable. Perhaps as a 10 yr old she was always witty and sweet and funny in conversation, perhaps this is just the way she wants to remember herself but it made me read her as more of a character (and an unbelievable one) than a real person.

Finally, there was the Streak itself. While I admire Ozma and her father for committing to their promise to each other, at times their commitment is more to the Streak itself than to reading. In the end I think this says more about me than her. I’m just not of the personality that enjoys or values doing something just to do it. I can see where making the commitment to read every night led to a lot of good things in their lives, but there was a point where it seemed like it outlived it’s purpose and took on a life of it’s own. I couldn’t help wonder what if her Dad hadn’t embarrassed her at her theater practice by making her leave just before midnight so they could read. Would they have been able to say “Well, we missed a night but it was awesome while it lasted. We’ll always love reading together.” ? Or would they just feel like failures? I would hope the former, but I’m guessing the latter.

This is a quick read and not unenjoyable. But it’s not one of the great books about books that I was hoping it would be.

One thought on “The Reading Promise

  1. Yeah, I pretty much agree with your critique, although I think I might’ve enjoyed it a little more than you. It is funny and interesting to think about how youth colors ours perspectives of things, especially our own lives, isn’t it? I did like the last few chapters, mainly because I can relate to the death of school libraries due to technology and bugetary issues.

    You’re exactly right that this book isn’t as much about reading as it claims to be. 🙂

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