Wednesday, October 30, 2013


My dad has about a gazillion books. I watched him build himself a physical library in my childhood home and hole up in there for hours at a time, just reading. With a stack of books beside the chair, there would be countless others on the shelf beside the chair, on the shelves outlining the room, and later, on the shelves jutting into the interior of the room. It was a legit library.

It shouldn't be surprising that since I was homeschooled (nothing I can do about that), his love for reading seeped into my life. Sure, it was slow going. He'd assign me a book (Silas Marner, by George Eliot, for example) and check in on me every few days.

"Did he find anything yet?" he'd ask. I didn't know what that was supposed to mean because I was only skimming the book. It was dry and required, and I still haven't read it. So I replied, "maybe. He's doing lots of stuff, so I'm not sure which one you're talking about."

"Oh, you'll know."

I think it was a baby or something the guy found. I know that because of an illustration I eventually found.

Anyway, dad didn't let up on the assignments (one that I did enjoy was Great Expectations by Dickens ... I read along and it was fine, and then holy crap, did he get kidnapped? S*#% just got real!).

Mom wasn't an innocent bystander either. She read to me and my sister on a daily basis (some of it unbearably boring, like "The Big Book of Virtues" in which she read about some parents telling their kids to stay put while they went and did something, but the house caught on fire and the kids didn't move to safety because the parents told them to stay, and THEY DIED! This is trying to tell us to be obedient?) -- nice things like Sherlock Holmes and the entire Little House on the Prairie series. Dad read at night (Lord of the Rings, Dracula, etc) while my sister and I drew pictures to keep our brains from wandering.

The first real, real thing I wanted to read on my own was Nancy Drew. First the old ones I'd gotten from my gramma (like from when she was a kid, with the blue cloth covers and thick, browning pages), then the more interesting (and more grown up) Nancy Drew Files.

There were so many of them! The library had them (not my dad's library, but the regular public one). My parents thought they were too "grown up" and that I might learn about how to become a teen mother or something from this rubbish and forbade me from reading them. (I still did it.) I stopped, though, when I could finally pinpoint the murderer in the first chapter. *spoiler alert!* It was always the person who seemed like they had the least importance in the story.

And who could forget Pleasant Company? You'd know them today as American Girl, but for me, there's still nothing quite as relaxing as seeing that silhouette image of a girl reading to her doll.

I read these books like they were going out of style. Molly, Samantha, Kirsten, Felicity ... I loved them like they were my own friends. The illustrations were gorgeous -- so many times I'd go back through the books I'd already read and just look at the pictures.

As I grew up, I found YA novels (as they were back then ... not nearly as interesting as now) and begrudgingly turned to Romance. I didn't need anyone knowing I liked these and calling me out like, "Ooohh! Melanie loves BOYS!" and some kissing noises. But shoot. These stories were about girls who were cool, and there were always two guys trying to get her attention. One was always the "obvious choice" and the other, while in some lowly job or caste or whatever was always so lovely. The Obvious Choice ultimately made some dick move and disqualified himself, and the heroine would go with the gentleman, who wouldn't make her rich, but would give her happiness and a good life. *spoiler alert!* I think that's every romance novel ever written. Am I wrong about that?

Then I went through my Classics phase (after I'd graduated school, of course -- non-manditory reading is always sweeter), where nothing was worth my time if it wasn't written in the 1800s. I fell kind of in love with Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray. I imagined Jonathan Rhys-Meyers in the lead role, and boy, it was a good read! Nevermind all the homosexual overtones, that was an amazing book. Thinking about it now, I kind of want to read it for a fifth or sixth time.
you'd read a book about a guy who looked like this.
Slowly, but surely, I worked my way into contemporary adult fiction. I learned that reading authors from different countries was a great way for a poor person to travel, that biographies, memoirs, and essays weren't always boring (thank you, David Sedaris), and that sometimes even adults read about the "least likely" person doing the murder. I love trying out new genres (like graphic novels -- thought that would be a waste of time, but it's not) and re-reading old favorites. I've gotten out books my parents read to me as a child and wide-eyed marveled at how good the story is ... and why don't I remember more of it?

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