I am an addict. A reading addict. I am not ashamed to admit it. As I’ve mentioned before, it started at an early age and it’s never diminished. Reading for me is what I envision – and I am not saying this lightly – what an addiction entails. At that moment when I open the cover and press it back just a little so the spine crackles, I feel a change overcome me. Sometimes I can’t put a book down until I’ve read it cover to cover, which pretty much means putting my entire life on hold for the written word. I’ve even sneaked off to the bathroom so I’d have privacy to finish what I started. I remember the first hit – that first book and how good it felt to finish it, love it and reread it. Never have two books been the same. Some are good, some I couldn’t muddle through far enough to finish, and others I’ve cherished and reread several times. My high school English teacher, Mrs. Cupertino, knew I loved “A Canticle for Liebowitz” by Walter M. Miller, Jr., so when I ran into her a few years after graduating she gave me a copy. I still read it every couple of years.
I’ve always been a voracious reader, devouring everything in front of me. When I was younger, it was the backs of cereals boxes. It’s funny how many times I could read the Honeycombs or Cheerios box over and over just to have something to read at the kitchen table. Sometimes I hide how much I read, but most often I don’t. I still read as if my life depends on it. Books are everywhere – bed stand, end table, office and car. Reading three books at a time is like my own bookish version of multitasking. I’m also one of those “movie-book nerds” – you know the type; the person who says, yeah, the movie was good but the book was SOOOOO much better. I don’t know why they changed the ending. I am that girl.
In grade school, I was just nerdy enough to set a goal to check out and read every book in our two Learning Centers (Catholic grade school terminology for ‘Libraries’), and I think I nearly managed it. The Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys mystery series didn’t stand a chance. I was also a great patron of the local public library branch and I could spend hours at a time there, browsing the shelves and just looking at the books and their titles. That’s where I discovered Stephen King and John Saul. I loved the summer reading challenges and actually thrived on acquiring completion stickers. I’d check out as many books as allowed, with the stern reminder from the librarian I had three weeks to return them all. No problem. Of course, when I couldn’t make the trek in the winter, I began secretly co-reading anything my Mom was reading, being careful to replace her bookmark at the correct page. Jackie Collins provides a crazy education when you’re 12 and I’m still scarred by some of the scenes she wrote. My reading history certainly has been diverse.
Recently, my youngest nephew has become quite the reader. This was instigated by a grounding and subsequent punishment to abstain from video games and cable television; but no matter the reason, he now takes great pleasure providing lengthy and detailed synopses of the books he’s plowing through. While it’s inevitable my eyes glaze and my mind wanders when he’s minutely describing the rogue cat colony in the latest middle grade series, I won’t discourage him because he really seems to like the success – he’s thrilled when he finishes a book, then a trilogy and then a series. I hope this habit stays with him long after the punishment is lifted. I may introduce him to Twain or S.E. Hinton and see where those authors take him. My real hope is that he’ll want to hang out with me at the library, and that maybe one day when we’re watching a movie screenplay adapted from a book, he’ll turn to me and say he thinks the book had a better ending.