I’ve been an avid reader for almost my entire life. My love of reading originated when my 3rd grade teacher read the book, Charlotte’s Web, to us. A little at a time. At the end of each day if we completed all of our work and were well-behaved. I was captivated not only by the story, but by the story-teller. She made it come alive for us.
As I grew older, I spent my hard-earned money buying books. Rather than candy and Hostess Twinkies and Ding Dongs from the local 7-11. (Well, I may have had a few of those, too.) Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew. They helped me to survive my rapidly deteriorating family life. I could escape the screaming and yelling and cursing and physical violence by becoming immersed in their stories of adventure and familial support and happiness.
I loved to check out the books in the bookmobile that came to our school. I read every biography of every famous woman that they stocked – Joan of Arc, Cleopatra, Catherine the Great. My early heroes.
As I grew older, I read everything that I could get my hands on. The woman across the street was also a reader – mostly Reader’s Digest condensed books and romance novels. She invited me to borrow and read her books. I read everything on her bookcase. I’m not sure some of them were really appropriate for my age, but no one ever bothered to check on me so long as I was tucked away in a corner somewhere reading. The squeaky wheel gets the attention, and I was no squeaky wheel.
As I grew older, school became my escape. I loved school and learning and even reading textbooks. I was probably one of the few kids to actually read the books assigned in English classes. I even read the novels that my kids were assigned from their AP reading lists in high school. Many of them were already on our bookshelf anyway. I have an appreciation for the classics and have read and re-read many of them. The classics take on new and different meanings with life experiences, and I recommend that you try re-reading something you read when you were younger.
I also read the few books that my father brought home including In Cold Blood. I was very young when I took it from his bookshelf. I realized that this book might get taken away from me so I read it secretly. I don’t know what this says about me that I hid books to read rather than other, more normal, kid things. I also read The Exorcist and Helter Skelter. I loved Agatha Christie and John le Carré. These were my early forays into crime and spy novels which I enjoy to this day as my guilty pleasure or beach reads. The darker the better.
I eventually became addicted to science fiction and fantasy which I read avidly through high school and college. Adams, Asimov, Bradbury, Clark, Heinlein, Herbert, Huxley, Tolkien. My forays into women authors in this genre (Atwood, Butler, Le Guin) and more recent works (Gaiman) would come later.
After college, I moved away from reading fiction and concentrated on self-help books. Books on babies, parenting, and marriage became my resources to try to avoid making the mistakes of my parents and to build a happy and healthy family. And, after having four children including a set of twins and adding my niece as our 5th child, I spent most of my time outside of working, running a household, and raising kids – sleeping. Not much time to read for pleasure.
I read a lot of children’s books during this time, and I loved reading Harry Potter and other series with my kids as they, too, developed a love of reading.
I spent four years attending the Biblical Studies program at The University of Dallas. We studied the entire Bible, and I learned a lot about my Catholic faith through this course and through teaching religion classes. I have an entire bookcase of really good books about the Bible and religion from this time in my life.
I gradually returned to reading for pleasure – fiction and non-fiction. I will read just about anything except the bodice rippers and horror. I lean toward dark novels and particularly enjoy dystopian and apocalyptic literature. Neat, clean, and tidy endings aren’t for me.
One of the things that I do, when I find an author that I like, is to read their entire body of work from start to finish. It’s fascinating to see the development of an author in this way. I did this with several authors I mentioned already and others like John Irving and John Grisham (until I got tired of them) and Jerzy Kosiński (one of my early dark authors). One of my top 10 books of all time is Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, and I have gone back to his earlier works to fill in the gaps with those books of his that I haven’t read. He actually used punctuation early on.
It adds much to the reading of a book to understand the background and time period in which an author lived. We are all products of our experiences, and this applies to authors, too. Artists of all types – authors, artists, actors, poets – provide us with a unique perspective on our world. They become timeless when they transcend the era in which they produced their body of work.
I also make sure that I read books by women authors and authors from other cultures. I appreciate the expansion of high school AP reading lists from primarily white, male European and American authors to include women authors and novels from other parts of the world. The perspective gained by expanding your reading list in this way is invaluable.
During the 18 months I spent traveling back and forth to Minnesota to help my sister as my brother-in-law battled cancer, I read the books on their bookshelves and e-readers. Lots and lots of books – sometimes a book a day. My brother-in-law expanded my reading list to books and authors that I would never have picked up on my own. I recently finished Saint Odd by Dean Koontz, a series which he got me started on, but which he was not able to finish.
In 2014, as I dealt with family issues through therapy, I returned to reading in a big way. Rather than a book a month or so, I made a goal to read 50 books in 2014 and ended up reading 80. I filled in the gaps with a lot of books and authors from the period when I was concentrating on raising children rather than reading for pleasure. I caught up on many popular books and authors that I hadn’t read, but were recommended to me by my friends who read a lot. I re-read a lot of books that I enjoyed when I was much younger.
I also read a lot of WWII books, fiction and non-fiction, in 2014, and All The Light We Cannot See is at the top of this list. I joined a Book Club in November and purchased this book to share at the book exchange in December. Five others in the book club also chose this same book to share so I expect to see it on our list in 2015.
If it’s been awhile since you’ve read a good book, try it. Our local library is on-line. I can add a book to my reserve list, order it (even in advance of publication), and drop off and pick up through the drive up window. They even allow me to renew on-line and send me email notices if I happen to have a book due soon.
Reading has always been a big part of my life. It is not only an escape from the harsh realities of life, but a source of enjoyment. Reading allows one to expand outlooks, learn empathy, and become more educated. Becoming an empty nester is allowing me the time to carve out a little of each day to read. It’s more than a hobby for me.
If you want to see what I’m reading or follow my book recommendations, feel free to friend me on Goodreads. My user name is tdepaepe.