Thirty-eight years of reading is a long story to tell. And this is only the highlights. Part 1 will be from birth through college and part 2 will be from college to the present.
My parents put me in a book-of-the-month club when I was born. I do not know what life is like without books. I’m told my favorite book as a child was “Puppies are Like That!” and I’d love to get a copy of it again some day. I’m pretty sure Shimri would love to read it too.
I remember going to the library a lot when I was a kid. I sprained my ankle going to story time at the downtown Salt Lake library when I was about 4-years-old. I’d turned around to look at the clock tower that was chiming the hour and my mom, pregnant with my sister and carrying my brother, didn’t see me and tripped on me.
In fourth grade our teacher read us “The Dollhouse Murders” as our class book and I believe I got excused from listening to it because it really creeped me out. I believe it was sixth grade where our teacher read us “The Indian in the Cupboard” and I got really into that series. I was also interested in books about the Revolutionary and Civil Wars and I remember reading “My Brother Sam is Dead.” I know I started “Across Five Aprils” but can’t remember if I finished it. I read “The Code Breaker Kids” and had a lot of fun playing with codes. I liked reading “Sideways Arithmetic from Wayside School” too. And I read a book about some kids who helped smuggle their country’s gold out past the Nazis during WWII by putting it on their sleds and sledding down the mountain with it and I can’t quite remember the title of it right now.
When we moved from Utah to New Mexico one of the first things we did was get city library cards for all of us. I enjoyed going to the library and looking things up. When I was in 7th grade the junior high was right next to one of the branches of the library and I’d go there after school to wait for my mom to finish up at the elementary school where my siblings went and she worked. I had so much fun exploring the library. I could still tell you where the animal books were and the craft books. I read every book the library had on parakeets and that convinced my parents to get me some for Christmas that year. I wanted to read “A Christmas Carol” but had an over-due book at the time I kept forgetting to return so they wouldn’t let me check it out. I spent several days reading it and then hiding it at the back of the stacks so it would be there when I came back the next time. I read a book about candle making and would still like to try making candles inside emptied eggshells.
Seventh grade was also the year my dad gave me a copy of “Contact” by Carl Sagan and I felt so mature to be reading a book as thick as the ones he reads. It even took me over a year to finish the first time, the same length of time it takes him to read a book. The second time I read it I finished it in two months.
I remember reading “Jurassic Park” at night and thinking that was a bad time of day to read that book. But I had a habit of getting into a book and tuning out the rest of the world, including the passage of time (just one more chapter and I’ll stop, but then I wouldn’t notice a chapter break for another five chapters), and my mom asking me to set the table for dinner.
I love astronomy and read “The Night Sky Book.” One of the suggested projects in the book was to make a globe pillow. So I did. Our kids love to bouncy and sit on it still. There are several Brown Paper School books that I really enjoyed as a kid and am glad to have copies of them now to use with our kids when they get bigger too.
I read every book assigned in junior high and high school except “Heart of Darkness” and I’m pretty sure I only made it about one chapter into that one. I liked very few of the classics we had to read: “The Old Man and the Sea,” “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man,” “The Pearl,” “The Good Earth.” We read “Gone With the Wind” and had to do a project about it. My partner and I made a classroom-sized model of Tara. That part was fun. And I’ve never had a book put me to sleep the way “The Scarlet Letter” did. I did enjoy Shakespeare and the poetry we had to read though. In fact, when I was applying for college and realized that they wanted to know what I’d read outside of classroom assignments and I couldn’t think of any, I pulled out “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare” and read several plays, and then to balance it out I read several Star Trek original series novels.
In college I started reading James Michener books because I’d grown up watching my dad read his books. I’d actually read “Mexico” for my Spanish class my senior year of high school and found the style of it fascinating. I both read and saw “The Hunt for Red October” twice before remembering I’d already done both. And then I had to finish that series (and the related John Clark series). Sort of. I tried picking the series back up when I got home from my mission but just couldn’t get into “The Bear and the Dragon.”
I read several Michael Crichton books and noticed a disturbing trend – he can’t finish a book. He’ll tell an amazing story that totally pulls you in and then in the last chapter or two all the horrendous bad stuff is magically taken care of and disappears. It was especially noticeable with “The Andromeda Strain.”
My mom and I read several John Grisham books and enjoyed talking back and forth about them. Then we realized he kept telling the same story over and over again – lawyer discovers misdoing among other lawyers, tries to set it right, quits being a lawyer to become a high school teacher. Not a bad story, just not one we wanted to keep reading over and over again.
I took a children’s literature course in college as part of my major and fell in absolute love with The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander. So much so that before Brett knew my actual name he knew me as the screen name “Princess Eilonwy.” I remember walking around campus reading the books because I just had to know what came next. I’d make it a point to put the book behind my back while crossing the street so I’d be sure to look for cars. I still remember where I was on campus when the companions made their ultimate sacrifices to defeat Arawn and I couldn’t help but cry.
I was also introduced to “The Dark is Rising” series in that class and thought that one was pretty good as well. When I saw what they were doing to the movie of it though it made me sick. I’ve never seen the movie and I’m not surprised they didn’t make any more.
I didn’t like all the books assigned in the children’s lit. class, just like I’ve never liked all the books assigned to me. But I did enjoy how open the professor was to letting us not like them. That’s a good thing to remember when helping children find what kinds of books they like. I remember particularly not liking “Tuck Everlasting” because it felt like you got to the end of the book and there had been no point to any of it happening at all. And I also wasn’t a fan of “Wait Till Helen Comes.” I didn’t like ghost stories as a kid and I didn’t like them any more as an adult.
Reading just got more interesting after graduating from college.