Sunday, November 21, 2010

the love of reading

there is a facebook list, from the BBC, of 99 books you should read. I have read 75 of them. Reading has in many ways, made my life what it is. Learning to read opened up the world to me. I could go beyond my family, beyond my street, beyond my neighborhood. It was a revelation to me.

I did not come from a family of readers. We had a small handful of books in the house before I started reading. Reading was not encouraged; it was viewed as anti-social and anti-family. I actually think that that was part of the original attraction for me. I could be alone when I read.

I had no discrimination and no taste. I read everything I got my hands on. I was probably the only 8 year old who had read both Dante's Inferno and Bob,Carol, Ted and Alice. I read a slew of classics, because my Dad found a set of books in the trash -- volumes by Poe, Conan Doyle, Ibsen, Stevenson. I still have them. I read pulp paperbacks, every sci-fi book at the Severna Park Library. I read a lot of smut. I read magazines, cookbooks, a ton of reader's digest condensed books.

Books became my peer group; my beliefs and opinions changed with every book I read. I went through an incredibly greedy, selfish phase after reading Atlas Shrugged. Heinlein had me thinking fascism wasn't such a bad thing. 1984 had me convinced government was a terrible idea. I read The Jungle and did not eat a hot dog for more than 10 years.

Eventually, I established my own sense of self, and my own opinions. Reading no longer pushes me into one thing or another, but it still mesmerizes and entrances. I still am carried away by other places, by living, however briefly, someone else's life. I have never read anything that couldn't teach me something, even if the only lesson was the writer didn't know how to write.

I owe my first grade teacher a huge debt, for teaching me to read.


Kitten Herder said...

My mother never graduated from high school. However, she made sure that there was an encyclopedia in our home. She also picked up Readers Digest Condensed Books whenever she could. Any time we watched a movie that was based in history, we would look events up in the encyclopedia. This is where I got my love of books, from a woman who didn't finish tenth grade but read at least ten books a year while working full time and raising a child by herself.

Even if your Dad didn't openly encourage reading, he did rescue those books, didn't he?

changejunkie said...

Dad didn't actively discourage reading, and yes, he did rescue those beloved books from the trash. Mom was the one who really disliked it, but she pretty much ran the show.