The Joy of Reading

I am an avid reader. Some of my earliest memories include books and stories. My mom tells me when I was potty training, she would sit me on the potty chair with a book and I’d stay there forever. I don’t know what this says about my personality, exactly, but it is definitely a testament to how much I love to read. I count myself very lucky to have been raised amongst people who were (and are) passionate about stories, literature, poetry and self-expression. From my very earliest years, a love of books was cultured in me and it has served me well my whole life.

I suppose that is why I’m sentimental about the written word. I have a bookshelf in my living room that is designated for “special” books. It contains my book of Grimm’s Fairy Tales that my mom gave to me when I turned 10, inscribed with “Happy Birthday, Love Mom”. It holds my beloved Roald Dahl collection, Shel Silverstein, my collection of Jim Morrison’s poetry, dog eared and covered in notes and highlighted passages (from my teenage years in which I was fairly obsessed with the Lizard King), my book of Beatles lyrics, the Bhagavad Gita, The Tibetan Book of the Dead, books on mythology and music, Kay Redfield Jamison’s Touched with Fire, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Entire Collection of Dr. Seuss, Shakespeare’s Tragedies, The Great Gatsby (my favorite book of all time), autographed YA fiction, and Linda Goodman’s Star Signs, to name a few. These books are my prized possessions; books I’ve read so many times I have passages memorized.

I think of my books like my children. I have so many volumes that I ran out of room years ago. My bookshelves in my office are cluttered with women’s studies texts, books on various world religions, poetry volumes and way more cookbooks than I could ever need. I have books floating around attic space at my dad’s house; tucked away in storage at my old home in New Zealand; collecting dust at various friend’s places; stacked on the back of the toilet in the bathroom, and waiting in the backseat of my car. Books follow me everywhere. I am a certifiable book nerd. It is a rare occasion that I am not reading at least two or three books at once. At any given time, I’m usually reading a new work of fiction I’ve never read before, an old work of fiction that I love and read over and over again for comfort, and something non-fiction to break up the monotony. I even read in the bathtub.

When I was a little girl, my dad would tell me a story every night. He left them open-ended and would continue on with the story for weeks and weeks on end. They took on lives of their own, becoming verbal novellas, each day’s story becoming more crazy than the next. He made up stories about his own personal interests: Van Halen, professional wrestling, and working as a DJ. And I loved it. I watched Reading Rainbow every single day. Even now, I follow LaVar Burton on Twitter.

My mom would always give me books for Christmas and birthdays. I fell in love with fairy tales, Roald Dahl, and Dr. Seuss because of her. Even now, she takes every opportunity to pass on things she thinks I might enjoy. I have her to thank for Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, Forever Amber, and the illustrious and amazing Margaret George (if you haven’t read her historical fiction, you should).

By the time I was in middle school I’d read the entire Weetzie Bat series, everything by Roald Dahl and Lois Lowry (The Giver remains one of my favorite books), and had moved on to Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles. 12 was a pretty tender age to be tackling such material, but I enoyed her writing style so immensely that I devoured them all like candy. I also had the entire 100+ collection of the Sweet Valley High series, though by the time I was 13 I’d outgrown the writing style (I bought the entire collection on eBay once just to reread them and see what all the fuss was about, and I read them all in a weekend, trying not to die from laughter). During summer break, instead of riding bikes and swimming in the river like the rest of my friends, I’d sprawl out on the porch swing and read The Diary of Anne Frank.

By high school I had discovered the joys of the classics. Steinbeck, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Shakespeare, Harper Lee, and Edgar Allen Poe were among my favorite writers. I was one of the few students in English class who was filled with excitement for every new required book. I read ahead in my English texts, and tackled things like Anna Karenina for my research papers. By the time I was 17, I’d already filled up huge two binders with my own poetry and fiction, and had begun to dream of becoming a writer.

In college I discovered my beloved Margaret Atwood, New Zealand writers like Witi Ihimaera and Maurice Gee, who opened up worlds beyond the ones I’d ever experienced. I learned about other cultures, and much about myself, through the books I read. I took on jobs related to writing and editing, had an article published in my hometown’s local college paper, and relished writing and reading like never before.

Books mean the world to me. As I take on more and more responsibilities in my day to day life, I have less time for pleasure-reading. I miss it. I need books for sustenance. They make me happy, they make me think, they help me relax. They educate me.

Right now I’m reading the second book in the Millenium Series by Steig Larsson, The Girl Who Played with Fire. I’ve fallen in love with Lisbeth Salander and her apathetic, matter of fact self-sufficiency. I read the first book of the series in less than a week. I’m fascinated by the fact that as a teenager, Larsson witnessed a gang rape of a young girl and did not do anything to help. The incident haunted him for the rest of his life and prompted him to write these books in his later years. He named the main character, Lisbeth, after the girl victim, and dedicated his novels to heroes and heroines fighting against sex crimes and violence against women.

I will never, ever buy a Kindle. I love books too much. The way the pages smell, the way an old book almost crumbles in your hands, the artwork and the type. I love having a new novel in my hands – the crispness of it, a new adventure just waiting to be unleashed when you open the first page.

Do you fellow ladies of the page feel the same as me? If you had a personal “shelf of favorites” such as I do, which books would be on it? What stories have spoken to you through the years?

Happy Reading!

photo credit: Persistence Unlimited

Published by

Teri Drake-Floyd

An almost 30-something synestheste, foodie, genealogist and all around proud geek.

33 thoughts on “The Joy of Reading”

  1. My first memory of reading a “real” book with chapters was The Boxcar Children. Not the new, written by someone NOT the original author, but the origanal, taking place in te 40s-50s Boxcar Children. I still read them, although I can finish a book in about an hour. My love for reading started in about 5th grade, and I have been hooked on books ever since. I feel so lost without books. I take one with me to the doctors office, when I spend the night off somewhre…its likea security blanket to me. I let some idiot borrow my “good” books, and sadly she has not returned any of them. I go stir crazy around here without my old favorites to read, so I have started re purchasing my books, from yard sales and used bookstores. One of my favorites: “A Painted House” by John Grisham. I love the Sweet Valley High series too, though not as much as I did as a teen. The drama doesnt make sense anymore. I will pass on my love of reading to my child, and am already collecting books for him/her to get started with!

  2. I’ve loved reading since before I could read. My mom told me that from the age of about 2 or 3, I’d spread the newspaper out on the floor and diligently “read” every page. What fascinated her was that I wouldn’t only look at the pictures; I actually seemed to try to understand the text.

    Books were my refuge and my joy when I was growing up. My home life was very dysfunctional and for many years I’d go to sleep wishing that I would die in my sleep. Books kept me going through those years. Every time I opened a book I stepped into a new world. All the sights and sounds of the real world faded away and I became immersed in a world that didn’t contain everything that made me unhappy. Every book showed me something I’d never seen or heard of before.

    I couldn’t afford to buy books back then so I relied on the library and the occasional gift. I borrowed my siblings’ library cards so that I could take out 10 or more books at a time. I was allowed into the Adult section of the library from about the age of 10, because I’d read every book in the Children’s section that interested me. The walk home was too long to go without reading so I’d read as I walked. People along my route got used to seeing me with my nose in a book.

    Now I’m able to buy books and haven’t been to a library in years. My collection stands at about 1000 books and I really need to do another springclean. Every few years I weed out all the books I can bear to part with and donate these to my local library. Sometimes just looking at my books soothes me. I’ll stand in front of my bookshelves and just savour the joy of seeing so many books in my home.

    I would love to get a Kindle though (and probably will in the next month or two).

    Oh and I read everywhere – sitting on the loo, in the bath, commuting, waiting in queues, while watching TV, eating out, etc. Life is so much better with a book.

  3. My mom said I started reading books when I was three. I haven’t stopped voraciously reading since.

    My favorites shelf houses Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Nancy Drew, LotR and Hunter S. Thompson. I wish I had some or all of my childhood favorites on that shelf, but I foolishly gave them all to my niece as she was growing up and they disappeared over time.

    Books were my savior–when I was being bullied at school, when my parents were engaging in violent, knock-down, drag-out fights, when I felt excluded, sad, angry, or happy. They were always there. Faithful companions that didn’t judge me. The characters in so may of them became my friends and family when my IRL ones seemed to not really care about me.

    My books are the last thing I pack when I get ready to move and the first thing I unpack in my new home…to me they are my home.

    When trying to choose a career path during college, I for some reason opted for Communications. Deep down, I think I knew that library sciences was my true calling and though it’s many years after I got my undergrad, I will be pursuing that degree. I can’t think of a better way than to spend my working hours surrounded by the things that have made me more happy than anything else in the world.

  4. I love books more, but a Kindle would be a lifesaver as far as I’m concerned.
    I’ve been reading since I was four years old, much to my mother’s relief, since apparently before that I was a very demanding child, and thus she had to read to me.
    My family is one of readers anyway; they’ve started using my room back home as storage space, because my house is overflowing with books. In my room alone there must be about five hundred, if not more.

    The thing is, I grew up in France, but I live in Taiwan. I already have forty-plus books kicking around, which horrifies most people I know, because the standard answer if “how are you going to get them home?”

    I do enjoy the feel of books more than anything else, actually I just like paper – I still take notes on paper at uni, and I scribble out my papers and essays on scrap paper before anything else, which is apparently quite odd to my classmates (I’m in grad school) but it’s just more comfortable.

    But I’d rather have the stories themselves, and a Kindle would allow me to lug everything around, which would make me incredibly happy, especially when I’m on the twenty, twenty-four hour trip from France to Taiwan or vice-versa. I read annoyingly fast, and carrying around five or six books just for the trip is a pain in the ass!

  5. I feel exactly the way you describe! In elementary school, I was always the kid huddled in a corner at recess with a book and as such didn’t learn to socialize until I was 12. Books were just so much better than endless running games and prepubescent girly politics. And they still are, for that matter.

    I have rows of books three rows deep in my nightstand, double rows on my actual (smallish) bookcase, an ever-changing pile next to my bed, multiple boxes in my parents’ attic and the best Christmas present I EVER got was a set of carousel bookends.

    The one book I can read over and over again is definitely To The Lighthouse. I started reading Virginia Woolf in highschool for a project and while I didn’t finish the project, the books have stayed with me.

  6. I am firmly in the anti-ebook reader camp. I bought one (the Sony model) a few weeks ago, and it just felt wrong that I couldn’t flip pages or look at a nice cover, and I was so afraid of breaking it/ruining the touchscreen/getting it wet. Plus my library doesn’t have many free ebooks yet, and I’m a cheapskate. I ended up returning it. I can see that it would be really useful for frequent travellers, though.

  7. I love books, and I adore my Kindle. I’ve found I read so much more now that books are more easily acquired and take up so much less room. I probably read two or three times as many books now than I did before I got my Kindle. I suspect I don’t have the same attachment to “old book smell” as other people do, because that musty, vaguely mushroomy smell makes me sneeze like crazy. I’m much more about the words than the tactile experience, but I realize it’s not the same for everyone.

  8. Thanks everyone, for your different opinions regarding the Kindle. I have actually used e-readers before, and have also used books on tape. I don’t mind the experience, I just love the feel of an actual book. I hope nobody thought I was coming from a place of judgement!

  9. I love to read. I love books. I love the library. Oh, do I love the library. My library has giant, overstuffed chairs next to floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook a river. In fact, one of the reasons I chose the college I went to was because of the library.
    I recently finished reading “Infinite Jest,” and while I had a really hard time getting through the first 100 pages or so, I absolutely loved it. Once I was done reading, I found myself missing the book. I can’t possibly be the only person that has missed a book after I finished reading it.
    As an aside, when I was younger, there was one time I was in trouble for some minor infraction, I can’t remember what it was anymore, and my mom grounded me from reading of all things. Since I liked to read more than watch TV or go outside, she figured that would be the only effective punishment for me. I recently told the boy that story and he asked if mother was Sarah Palin :)

  10. I like reading but don’t own many books (yay public libraries!); the only one I’ve bought within the last year is Murakami’s “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.” Nevertheless, books that I’d include on a “shelf of favorites” include Matilda (Dahl), Columbine (Cullen), a whole bunch of books on mythology and a bunch that I can’t think of now.

    As for getting an e-reader – agreed that it’s not the same as reading from a book. It’s also too expensive in the long run (again, yay public libraries!)

  11. Some of my happiest childhood/teen memories are the days I spent in the orange swivel chairs in the living room, reading. I’d spend whole days there devouring books. I was actually thinking about this the other night. I was trying to remember what my favorite books were growing up. Mostly I remember the SVH series, VC Andrews books, and Beverly Cleary. A few books really stick out as ones I would re-read: Pride & Prejudice, Goodnight Mr. Tom, and Harriet the Spy.

    As an adult I got out of the habit of reading for pleasure when school and life got in the way. The Kindle I got for Christmas is actually bringing me back to it. I spent an entire Saturday reading The Girl Who Played With Fire and I felt like a kid in a candy store again! I forgot how much I love losing myself into that other world. I’m regularly trolling through (in a good way) watching for book recommendations, and now I’m reading The Blind Assassin. So far so good!

  12. Do people not read in the tub? What else would you do in there?

    I feel the same way about reading and books. I’m getting ready to move into a smaller place and a friend suggested giving up my books and getting a Kindle to save space. I won’t even consider it. Flipping pages on a screen (I use the kindle app when traveling) is not the same as re-reading books I’ve had for 10 or 15 years. Occasionally, i find a receipt, note, or bookmark that reminds me of the last time I sat down to stroll through it. I have friends who like books, but few seem to get as completely absorbed in them. I can’t sit through most movies, but I’ll spend days absorbed by a book. Thanks for reminding me that my family isn’t the only one filled with book nuts.

    1. When I was in middle school I created something I called “bath books” for an inventing contest. They were literally laminated waterproof books that you could read in the bath or shower. To this day I don’t know why they didn’t win. Or why no one’s made some yet.

  13. Okay, so I am also a book nerd. This is my bedroom at my parents’ before I added more books to give you an idea (my bed is behind the white shelf).

    I also thought I would never buy a Kindle, but now that I’m living in a tiny apartment without the room for that kind of book space–I could only bring my absolute favorites and I’m also broke–the Kindle has come in handy, at this point in my life! I don’t think loving books and having an ebook reader are mutually exclusive–it’s also very convenient when I take the train to school, because my school books are already super heavy. Anyway, that’s my little spiel about the Kindle, because I do get a little frustrated with that kind of attitude, which I have been seeing a lot recently.

    I have several different shelves of ‘favorite’ books, some from when I was a kid (did anyone else love The Hounds of the Morrigan and Sally Lockhart as much as I did? as a girl I loved anything fantasy or history related–now I’m remembering all of these awesome books like Catherine Called Birdy and the like!) and also the badass shelf, where I keep all of my favorite badass histories and epics (Scandinavian sagas ahoy). At some point I just want a room in my apartment to make into a library, because that’s really the only way to address the issue of a favorites shelf. :(

    1. (I really thought I had sent a reply to this so I hope I can recreate my initial excitement…)

      Someone else has read Catherine Called Birdy!!!! I love that book! I had no idea that someone else out there had read it too! No one I know has ever heard of it.

      Did you ever read The Midwife’s Apprentice?!

      1. I actually did read it, and also loved it, but Catherine Called Birdy was the first book that came to mind when thinking of childhood books–because I LOVED that character, and just that book in general.

        I’m surprised no one else has heard of it, though! I haven’t bought it up in conversation recently so I can’t gauge who has and who hasn’t, but I think it might have won the Newberry or at least been nominated… I remember having it on the classroom bookshelf in elementary school at least.

    2. That is my dream room. I wish I had the space to have multiple shelves with all of my favorite books. Right now, I have all of my books in the living room. I live with my parents in a tiny apartment and let’s just say they are not please that they have no space to put anything anywhere because of my massive collection. I moved some to the basement , but they don’t all fit there. And there are just some books you can’t put in the basement, it would be a mortal sin!
      :-)

        1. I do have an obsession with reading that might not be so healthy. I love it when people give out books and during the summer I look for library sales, yard sales and stock up for the winter.The problem is that I never donate any of them and that’s something I might want to start doing.I’m not picky either so I just love reading any kind of genre. But I seriously need to donate some of my books and stop buying so many books at a time.

  14. I too have a deep love of books. I own about 450, spread across three provinces and one territory. My signed M.G. Vassanjis sit on my bedside table. Like you, I often have three books on the go.

    Where I would disagree is with the e-reader statement. I was given a kobo (the Canadian kindle) for a graduation gift, and it really comes in handy. I travel a lot for work now, and when you want to pack light for a week long trip, kobo is the way to go. Lots of books there, many free ebooks available. It’s helped me see lots of books that I never would otherwise. It certainly doesn’t take away the sentimentality I have associated with my hardcovers and paperbacks, but I have to say it’s a useful little machine.

  15. Oh my gosh, I love this and I can identify with so much of it! I would also sit on my potty chair with a book (there’s photographic evidence of this – oy), and my dad gave me a copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales when I was 5 – it’s all tattered and worn now, and I have a newer copy, but I still really love it. And the Sweet Valley High books were staples of my adolescence, as was the Diary of Anne Frank – I remember my fourth grade teacher suggesting that I not read it yet (maybe she thought it would be upsetting), but I read it anyway and it’s one of those books that I reread every couple years.

    My dad is a math teacher but he also loves to read, and he’d read me some of the easier Shakespeare plays before bed when I was in elementary school. The first one I remember him reading me was A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and it’s still one of my sentimental favorites.

    And I began to fall in love with poetry in sixth grade, when my English teacher saw how much I loved writing and gave me a copy of an EE Cummings book. It was pretty challenging reading then, but I kept coming back to it and he’s one of my favorite poets now – I think it can be easy to sacrifice emotional resonance in the name of experimenting with form, and Cummings has mastered both.

    I personally disagree re. the Kindle, though. The prospect of being able to carry tons of books with me and to get any book I want almost instantly is positively thrilling. I don’t think it necessitates you abandoning hard copies of books, and if I ever get one I suspect I’ll still buy hard copies of my favorites.

  16. Sometimes I wish I had saved all the books I had ever read but then I would have an alarming number of Agatha Christie novels to pack around.

    Those books I cherish or must read again – I keep. Those that must be shared are given away. I always remember where they go and who has them now. My Memoirs of a Geisha has moved hands about 5 times.

    But ultimately, I know I can always come back to them. New covers, new styles – still the same poetic magic inside.

    One of the best compliments I ever received (indirectly) came from my mom when talking to her friend on the phone, “M recommends it so it MUST be a good book. She reads all the good ones.”

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