Full title: Harry Potter helped me become a better landlord (and an enthusiastic reader!)
I was at the ripe old age of 22 when Harry was introduced to the print world twenty years ago. I was waaayyy past the age of being a Harry Potter fan (or so I thought). And my first direct encounter with the Hogwarts crowd was not until a few years later when I escorted my 4th grade niece’s class on a movie field trip in place of my working sister. I was excited to spend time with my wonderful niece but not so excited to see a so-called “kid’s movie.” The opening credits rolled and, despite my best efforts to be an engaged and present aunt, I promptly fell asleep.
As a grammar school kid I collected and devoured books. When I got to middle school and high school my reading of non-required books had already started to drop off dramatically. After college it seemed to me that reading for fun was a luxury responsible adults could not afford. I missed reading but I just never believed I could make the time. Most people I knew (including myself) read books occasionally and half-heartedly if it related to making a living. Or if some hot new title was in the news. Often we didn’t finish any one book and would lose interest until the next big thing came around.
Reading seemed to be more of a chore or a duty. When I was in my 20s and 30s I can only remember one other adult in my social circle who read voraciously just for the simple pleasure of it. I once told this friend how much I admired how often she read. She was surprised and flattered because she never realized she was leaving an impression.
Fast forward to 2015. When the same wonderful niece volunteered to help me with the very responsible-adultish, landlordy task of painting a 2-story wooden porch, I looked for a way to keep us entertained while we worked. I don’t know if you know this but landlords are very serious--and earnest--people. Still I wanted to play something nostalgic that we could connect with without having to put too much thought into it. You know, kids’ stuff. Fluff. And honestly, I wanted to understand the big deal about a series that had dominated pop culture for so many years. What did I grab? The audiobook for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
Long after the porch was finished, the paint had dried, and my niece had gone on about her own adult life, I was still enthralled by the quality of the storytelling in the Harry Potter series. I don’t want to tell you that I listened to the whole set all the way through three times. Jim Dale is the best reader in the world. As a person who likes to write, it was amazing to peel back the layers of meaning with each listening and to see things I missed in a new light. It just about broke my heart when Harry had to pull himself away from the Mirror of Erised.
And listening started to reawaken the dormant little bookworm inside me.
Taking baby steps, I moved on from the young adult fiction world of HP to some James Patterson ear candy (little nutritional content yet still satisfying) in the form of his most popular detective series. “Alex Cross, Run.” “I, Alex Cross.” “Kill Alex Cross.” “Merry Christmas, Alex Cross.” When I got around to “This Is The Last Time I’ll Tell You To Take Out The Garbage, Alex Cross,” I thought it might be time to move on to weightier fare.
Then I tried historical fiction. Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker. The Paris Architect. I feasted on every Ken Follett audiobook I could get my hands on (Pillars of the Earth series and Century Trilogy series). I wish somebody would lock that guy in a room and not let him out until he writes ten more 1,000-page books.
Next I started catching up on some of the classics and influential books I was supposed to have read while I was an English major.
- Uncle Tom’s Cabin
- Animal Farm
- Bless Me, Ultima
- Tom Sawyer
- Huck Finn
- To Kill a Mockingbird
- The Great Gatsby
- The Handmaid’s Tale
- The Adventures of Augie March
- The Quiet American
- The Screwtape Letters
- One of my surprise favorites is the first half of Robinson Crusoe--that is until he goes all into creepy colonizer mode in how he treats “his man Friday.”
Now I've graduated into history, biographies and other non-fiction:
- World War I, The "Great War"
- Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy
- Boss Life: Surviving My Own Small Business
- Cities of the Ancient World
- Hellhound on His Trail: The Electrifying Account of the Largest Manhunt in American History
- City of Scoundrels: The 12 Days of Disaster That Gave Birth to Modern Chicago
- Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life is Your Hidden Strength
- Don't Know Much About History: Everything You Need to Know About American History but Never Learned
During the course of all this exploring, I've also discovered that I actually really like listening to books that teach you how to be a better landlord. Every Landlord's Tax Deduction Guide. Hot Rental Properties That Make My Blood Run Cold!: How Bad Tenants and Costly Repairs Can Destroy your Real Estate Investments (not to Mention your Health). The Landlord's Kit by Jeffrey Taylor.
And don’t get me wrong. I do love to read physical/paper books when I can force myself to be still long enough. But audiobooks tend to be a happy medium between reading books and watching tv because they stimulate my mind while allowing me to be mobile and get things done. TV glues me to the couch.
Painting a wooden porch, planting flowers, cleaning a stove, vacuuming a hallway, and organizing a garage are only some of the landlord duties I’m much more likely to do in a timely manner IF I can let a professional reader crack open a good book for me while my hands stay busy taking care of my properties. And my other serious, grown up responsibilities. Thanks Harry, and Jim, and J.K.
Click here to check out some other titles I’ve been reading (Chicago Public Library access might be required).
Click here to see how I respond when a prospective renter asks me to overlook an eviction on a credit report.
Today makes it 4 of 4! I have successfully completed my June blogging challenge and it feels great. Thanks for reading, thanks for your encouragement and let's keep the ball rolling on sharing information to help independent landlords be more successful.
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