I remember the first book I took out of the not picture books side of the library. Not the title, but the fact it was a real book with more words than pictures. It was about a dog. When I held it in my hand, I was awed at the idea of whole different worlds were now available to me. I just had to pick them out. For an introverted child, that was heaven.
I think I read every book in the children’s section by a certain young age, and with the blessings of the children’s librarian, moved downstairs to the young adult and adult books. It helped that I went to the library with my mother every Friday afternoon after I got home from school, and took out 10 books, the library limit. Afterwards, we would go out to dinner at some cheap diner and talk, while in the back of my mind I would savor the idea of all those new adventures waiting.
Savoring is what reading is all about to me. Eyeball the cover, crack open the book, read the title page and its reverse (because I’m weird that way), ponder the dedications. Who were all these people? Writers had help? A deep breath before the rollercoaster like plunge into the story. Once in a while I was fooled by a prologue. I didn’t develop an overwhelming hatred of them, more a resignation and impatience. I wanted the main story, and I wanted it right now! Good thing I’m not a mystery reader, right?
It wasn’t until high school that I learned the joys of non-fiction. Histories, biographies, how things work books. Books about other countries. It all fascinated me even as I worked my way through the fiction on World War II, dipping into histories as seemed appropriate. Then on to the Vietnam War. I grew out of war stories into philosophy. My favorite art teacher, knowing my rabid reading habits, gave me a worn copy of Jean Paul Sartre’s Being and Nothingness. He said, “We’ll discuss it when you finish”. Talk about being thrown into the deep end. Then came another philosophy book. And another. Lots of discussion. Thanks to him, I dual majored in philosophy in college. The places reading takes you shouldn’t be underestimated.
I still have diverse interests and read voraciously. There is so much I want to know. I’m grateful for my e-reader. Yes, it’s nice to have a real book to hold, and I like my non-fiction to be a physical book, but as many novels as I go through in a month, my house would be an episode of Hoarders with books. I’ve also noticed as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to a realization. I don’t have to finish a book. I can close it and walk away. Or throw it at the wall and not read another word. I couldn’t do that as a child. I felt obligated to read every word of the book until the end. Even if I hated it.
As my eyesight gets worse, I like e-readers more. I’m learning to like audiobooks. I use them to drive the long distances across Wyoming, but I notice I tend to grab books I’ve already read to listen to. Kind of like a reread, a comfort? Audio books don’t distract me from driving, like they do for some people. I remember getting to my destination one time, and sitting in the car for another thirty minutes, just to hear the end of the book. Isn’t that what it’s all about? The magic, the need to hear the end, but not wanting the book to end? The same with a series. I’m down to the last two books in an author’s series right now, and I’ve put off reading them. I don’t want my trip into her world to end. Eventually, I’ll dive in and read them. Then start looking for another series to turn my obsession on.
I want adventure, I want knowledge, and I want a peek into someone else’s life. I want to experience the pleasures without the physical pains. I want to sink into a book like it’s a bathtub full of exotic water, slip down to my nose and luxuriate. I want to transform, transcend, traverse. I want to pick up my first chapter book and start reading all over again.
Where does reading take you?