I’d initially started drafting a post with some philosophical drivel-dravel about conformity and all that stuff, but at times it felt like I was either being unoriginal or incoherent with the message I wanted to get across. So I decided to trash it after remembering a conversation we were having last weekend. Let me set up the scene for you.
As of this writing, my brother and his fianceé are a little over two weeks from their wedding day 👰🏻🤵🏻. Last Saturday marked three weeks out from their wedding day. My brother was home from work that day, and well…his fianceé (almost my sister-in-law by this point) had decided to have a beer…or few 🍻. Well, she’s not mean at all when she drinks, but she does get quite…sociable. She wanted someone to talk to, and the three of us (Mom, Dad, and I) all decided to come over and hang out with them and the baby…and getting to see her is always a bonus. Well, during our evening there, we got into several discussions, including one about how smart my sister-in-law thought my family was, and she referred to me as a “f⁉️⁉️ing genius” on multiple occasions, wondering why I never finished my degree (she’s currently taking online courses towards an associate’s degree in the hopes she’ll be able to get a degree or certificate later on that will allow her to work in insurance, but was a medical assistant before she gave birth to my niece and is currently a stay-at-home mom). For the record, I dropped out because of financial and transportation issues; I know I will need to have a discussion with my dad about finishing my associates degree eventually (and I’ve done some research recently, and one of the local universities does offer a bachelors degree in my desired major — and I do have one in mind now — that can be obtained online if I need to), but it’s a conversation I have not quite felt comfortable having up to this point. Anyways, during this conversation, my dad revealed something that I don’t even remember knowing or learning: apparently, I have known how to read on my own since I was at least 4 years old.
I have had my nose in a book for as long as I can remember…in some senses, I’m probably a real-life Matilda, of course referring to Roald Dahl’s literary heroine who could read from a young age and move things with the power of her mind (well, unfortunately I’m not telekinetic 😬). My first exposure to chapter books came in third grade, when I was introduced to the novels of Beverly Cleary by studying one of them in our class: Ramona Quimby, Age 8. In the years that followed, I would not only read some of Ms. Cleary’s other novels (Henry and Ribsy, Beezus and Ramona), but I also discovered Ann M. Martin’s The Baby-Sitters Club series, Cynthia Voigt and her Tillerman cycle books, and as previously mentioned in a prior post, Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl. I remember reading the articles in our Reader’s Digest magazines religiously. My mom had a small collection of classic novels that she bought through Reader’s Digest years ago, although I never could manage to finish most of them: Pride and Prejudice, A Tale of Two Cities, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, The Red Badge of Courage, Wuthering Heights, and The Scarlet Letter. When I was about 12 years old, I discovered the Harry Potter series after getting intrigued by reading portions of the first book over a friend’s shoulder…I do not regret doing that, by the way. It was one heck of a series.
High school, though…I will admit that high school did turn me off from reading books for enjoyment for a while. I know English teachers have a job to do, and I understand that…but when reading became a chore, something I had to do, it took the enjoyment for reading away from me for a while, and it took years for me to find that enjoyment again. I had to look for meanings, themes, and symbolism that was not very obvious to me, and I had to try and remember each and every single plot point, lest my teacher asks about it on a quiz or test 😫. Needless to say, English was not my favorite class or my best subject in high school. Sure, I’d read during those years after high school, but it was oftentimes news articles on the web or someone’s Wikipedia entry. I think the only novel I remember reading during that time was The da Vinci Code. Hell, everyone was reading The da Vinci Code during that time! It took a second look at those books I had so often ignored (for the most part) in high school and a moneymaking opportunity in order for me to rediscover my love for books.
A few years after I dropped out of college, I remembered the collection of books we had bought for my high school English classes, but had largely set aside. Two of them in particular, The Awakening and The Great Gatsby, caught my attention and were actually enjoyable once I read those books with fresh eyes. Then, about three years ago, my neighbor offered to have me babysit his daughter, who was 10 at the time, extremely outgoing, and full of energy. Our personalities clashed quite a bit over the couple of summers that I sat for her, but the money I earned, though not a whole lot, was enough for me to add some more books to my collection: The Iliad and The Odyssey, The Divine Comedy by Dante, The Catcher in the Rye, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. During some grocery shopping trips, I was also able to get The Casual Vacancy, The Hunger Games, To Kill a Mockingbird, and the two sequels to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo that were authored by Stieg Larsson himself (two more sequels were written after Larsson’s death, both authored by David Lagercrantz). The Millennium trilogy (named after the magazine that male lead Mikael Blomqvist runs in the novels) marked the first time that I actually enjoyed reading crime novels. The Hunger Games, I managed to finish in a week…but I have yet to find its two sequels, Catching Fire and Mockingjay. Then…another reading lull. Although recently, that has started to ease.
So, the iPad I was gifted with a few weeks ago? It comes with an ebooks app, iBooks. Now, I am in no position at this time to afford ebooks, or at least the ones you have to buy. However, the iBooks store does have a selection of books available for free, many of them older books that have already gone into the public domain. (A lot of these books can also be found on a website called Project Gutenberg, which has compiled all sorts of public domain books, including many classics you may be familiar with, into digital editions both available for download and viewable in HTML. For me, iBooks was a better option as I didn’t have to download an extra app to download the file and then put it into the reader…the app has both the store and an e-reader where I can read the books I’ve downloaded.). Using this app, I’ve been able to find public domain versions of several classics and there are about 6 or 7 books already queued up in the bookshelf, almost all of them I’ve been wanting to read for some time: Moby Dick, War and Peace, Anna Karenina, The Jungle, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and Les Misérables. But the very first one I found is the one I’m currently reading whenever I have some downtime to myself: Ulysses by James Joyce. I’m not very far into it yet, but I consider myself to be in for the long haul. I hope these books will hold me over, reading-wise, for quite a while.
I feel like I’m finally rediscovering what I lost all those years ago. I don’t think I’m alone in this either. I’m sure a lot of you lost a little bit of your love for books, too, when your teachers made you study them. My love affair with books has been hot and cold over the years, but I feel like I’ve reunited with an old flame and that reading and I haven’t missed a beat. I hope this is something that will continue with me for as long as humanly possible.
So, do you all have the same love for reading that I do? Has it been a lifelong thing or have you had on and off periods like me? What kind of books do you like to read, who’s your favorite author (or authors…it can be more than one if you want), and what’s at the top of your reading list? Don’t be afraid to talk about your favorite books in the comments!