It’s my mother’s fault, really. She is the one who started this whole affair.
From the time I could barely toddle, there we were at the library, in the picture book section. Yes, that’s me, below. This is how it all began.
But looking at pictures was not enough for my little ambitious soul–and I did not want to be read TO. I wanted to read.
And so it began. My mother taught me the sounds of each letter when I was about three years old and I was reading by four. The Cat in the Hat was the first book I learned to read—and I believe I had it memorized before I could actually decipher the letters.
But that was not enough. I wanted more.
Once the door was opened to me, I greedily devoured most of the children’s section and moved on. J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit in third grade. Sons and Lovers in fifth grade (I don’t think it ever occurred to my mother to censor my reading.). Jane Eyre in seventh grade. And then came the self-help books (What can I say? Old soul in young body.). I was tutored by no less than Dr. Wayne Dyer and Leo Buscaglia on the finer arts of love and assertiveness at the ripe old age of 12.
I read after school in my bedroom, at the dinner table and in the car. I read to the exclusion of the world around me. I began to read as a young girl with messy hair and big glasses with a serious prescription. I continued to read as a teenager who primped and fussed, and thank God, got contacts.
And still, I wanted more.
It never stopped, really. Sure, during grad school, I read mainly assigned texts on negotiation and economics. Just as Leo and Wayne had helped shape the way I saw the world, Susan Faludi fueled my feminist leanings during my twenties with Backlash. When a new mother in my thirties, I read behavioral and parenting books while nursing my sons. Through oh so many diverse stages of life, my thirst for pretty words, startling combinations, the turn of a phrase—has never disappeared.
My children have been raised to know their way around a library. And they know when I walk in the door of our local library, I will make my customary pause and breathe in deeply. I love that smell. The smell of paper. Of ink. Of possibility on the page.
They, of the Kindle generation, do not quite understand. And yet, the Kindle sits unused more often than not as they turn pages. Real pages. There’s something about the hunt for the book in the stacks. The energy you feel in a library. The adult you see being taught how to read. The student being tutored in some foreign language. The people who schlep to the library because they have no computer at home—and yes, those people still exist. The solitary types in the quiet reading room, reading either for a class or just because.
I’ve often tried to identify the energy. I think it’s hope. And community. A love of reading is the great equalizer. You could be turning the same page of the same title that a head of state is reading. The wealthy cannot keep Shakespeare to themselves. And the middle class, God help them, need to be shocked out of their malaise—at times—by the latest Fifty Shades of Grey. Or perhaps something more contributory, like Night by Elie Wiesel.
I’d go on, but I need to go read to my son. And then to myself. It’s a heady evening at our house.
29 Comments Add yours
The Kindle app on my Galaxy tablet is all very good (and at £0.99 well priced) but I still enjoy pulling out a book from its case and then perhaps only reading a chapter or two, I know the story but there’s no harm rereading favourite well written passages.
I just love the sensory experience of a real book. But I have friends who absolutely love their e-readers too. I think it’s just a matter of preference :-).
Oh yes! I was like that, too. I fear I don’t take enough time to read now and feel that lack!
Right? I sit all day for work (not healthy habit) and then find it hard to sit and read . . .
Because there is so. much. to. do.
And to sit and read means we are being “lazy”
Thank you for the pingback!
I am a new fan! Beautifully written post. Books have always represented hope to me.
Thank you! I think there are a lot of us book nerds out there. . .
My thoughts and your words match exactly.
Very beautifully written!I loved it and am now a fan of yours.
Thank you for the kind response. Fans much appreciated:)
Reblogged this on I'm a Book Lover and Proud!.
Thanks for the reblog! I truly appreciate it:)
I do the exact same thing when I walk into a library, that first deep breath and the smells follow are cathartic! My husband keeps trying to convince me to get a kindle but I also don’t want to give up the feel of holding a book in my hands. I even stop and smell the pages periodically as I read. lol
I can’t go to sleep at night without reading. And if I am reading on my Kindle, I can dim the light settings and read on and on without disturbing my husband’s sleep. It took a while to get used to reading on electronica. I still much prefer a real book.
I read Night in high school. What an amazing book. That, and All Quiet on The Western Front. Definitely will not let anyone glamorize war in any way, shape or form, after reading those books.
I have a stack of books waiting for me to read, on my bedroom floor. Must be off to get going on it!
Love the stack of books! I, too, have a stack next to my bed but it nevers seems to get any shorter:) I add faster than I can read. Enjoy!
I have loved reading since, well, I cannot recall. I always have – both of my boys were reading by age 3. And my oldest – lives for the library. 🙂
Keep those boys reading! That’s wonderful. So many boys stop reading when athletics or puberty come into play. I think it’s such a shame.
Yes, you are proof of the saying hat to be a good writer you should read good writing. I too am a bookworm…sometimes I think I should cull my ever expanding book collection…but it’s a tough thing to do.
My love affair with books really started at 6. My parents forced me to and not realising the pleasure, I resisted at first. Then during the hourly reading sessions before classes started at school, I actually started reading out of sheer boredom and never stopped. I do remember my first books by Enid Blyton. I devoured her books like there was no tomorrow. Glad to find fellow bookworms like me 🙂
I like to think the bookworms are quietly changing the world:)
I have a granddaughter who is 11. She has a tremendous appetite for reading also! What a blessing that is!
Well, mom did not censor you after it went so poorly with me – she found Love Story hidden in my drawer and Mr. & Mrs. Bojo Jones, I don’t remember where – big sisters are good for some things :)- and yes I do remember you reading while we would all be out to dinner ignoring one and all – but, alas it paid off!
this, “my thirst for pretty words, startling combinations, the turn of a phrase” is fantastic, and very apt. there’s just something startling about the the perambulations of language that keeps me up at night when I start a new book 😀
and kudos to you on teaching your children about the love for books – I find so many parents now giving their kids ipads and etc just to keep them quiet, and their minds get both under- and overstimulated. these children will never know that peaceful smell of aging books in the library.
you’ve mastered the turn of phrase yourself! 🙂 I’m with you, I love reading. Awesome post!
Thank you! I had good teachers:)