Before the days of Amazon.com (who remembers?) and the Kindle Reader, we actually found it necessary and even pleasurable to read while holding a book and turning pages, and misplacing it and searching for it desperately all over the house while wondering what was going to happen next to the hero/heroine was a common occurrence. Books weren’t just physical objects, they were experiences.
My reading experiences began when I was very small, when my mother would read to my sister and me every day at nap time. She read Little Golden Books she bought at the grocery store and tattered collections of fairy tales, children’s books illustrated by Eloise Wilkin and classic stories like The Golden Goose and Heidi. Those afternoons upstairs in the loft of our tiny house live in my memory as some of the happiest hours of my life.
My love affair with books intensified when I discovered Laura Ingalls Wilder at around the age of ten. At my mother’s suggestion I read The Box Car Children and The Trolley Car Family. I read Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys and Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret. In my teens I read Elizabeth Peters and Peter Benchley, and in my early twenties discovered Robert Ludlum and Robin Cook. I read cookbooks and gardening books like novels.
In my teens and early twenties I also read a lot of paperback romance which, while titillating to my adolescent fantasies, didn’t do anything for my education.
I started college late and experienced the dimensions of literary fiction. I read Hemmingway (whom I love) and Faulkner (whom I do not love). I read Flannery O’Connor and J.D Salinger and Truman Copote and I grew as a reader and as a writer.
I still read, although not as much for entertainment and inspiration as I would like. I try to pay attention and keep lists of all the interesting book titles and descriptions that I will read one day when I’m old and rich and have time, but often I am so caught up in the day-to-day routine that I am sure I am overlooking a lot of opportunities for good reading.
There are few experiences in life more gratifying than the experience of reading good writing. Even ignoring the fact that reading is a necessary life skill that enhances most other human skills, reading is good for the heart. A good book can inspire hope, learning, and creativity.
Now, where did I put that book down?