So, I read Jane Eyre this week. I love Jane Eyre. I think it’s one of the easiest “classic” novels to read. But I decided I didn’t want to talk about that today.
C.S. Lewis said “We read to know we are not alone”.
I wanted to talk about my history of reading. I wanted to talk about why I read. I wanted to talk about why I wanted to do this project with Dave.
If you’ve read Dave and I’s bios on here, you know that I began reading at an early age. I started reading everything my parents put in my hands or that I can get into my hands, I loved the Trixie Belden mystery series. I loved Archie Comics, and one of those family tales began when I told my dad that I wanted to get a “Double Digest” (pronounced dig (as in making a hole) and then est).
My dad was military. We moved all the time, the first time after learning to read, I was seven years old. We moved from Germany to Illinois. Imagine, being seven years old and making that move. Reading helped me through. It continued to. It became where the library was the one place I could rely on. Libraries, even when they looked different, were the same. My constant friends lived there. It didn’t matter where I lived, it didn’t matter who I knew or didn’t know, it didn’t matter who hated me and who liked me. In the library none of that mattered. I could read about Victorian England. I could read about Atticus Finch, Boo & Scout. I could read about Anne of Green Gables. I could read about Mrs. Piggle Wiggle (if you know about her, please let me know, those were amazing books and very few people know them!). Not only could I read about them, I could know them, I could play with Scout. I could be in a spelling bee with Anne, I could be in Mrs. Piggle Wiggle’s house. The smell of books came to mean home, whenever home was an unsure concept from moving.
Sometimes life got rough. Life always gets rough. Books provided refuge from the pain and from the roughness. As C.S. Lewis pointed out, we read to know we aren’t alone. When I couldn’t find anyone who understood me, books showed me that people were out there whom understood.
A memory that shows the anchor and the escape reading has provided for me.
In 1999, I was 23, and had been with a guy in Florida (I was in Nebraska, met through the internet etc) whom I had visited in October of 1998. I travelled back to Florida in January. The guy had a new job, which he was working 50 plus hours a week, and was either unable or as I later thought, unwilling, to take time off for my visit. This meant he left me alone at his apartment. All day. Except for a short time when his roommate would drive me over to the gym he was managing. I devoured Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood. I vividly remember parts of the books, which must have been the times I needed to escape the most from my thoughts. He seemed to think I should have been doing more while there, all by myself. I’m not sure what he wanted me to be doing though. I’m not entirely sure what happened, but a couple of weeks later after I returned home, he dumped me. That memory has been on my mind recently for some reason. I think it’s partly where this blog entry comes from.
My mind sometimes is a morass, it’s a confusion of ideas, of thoughts. Reading calms them, reading focuses my head.
My father said in the last few months, a snide comment about how maybe they were wrong on encouraging my reading (I don’t remember the exact words but it was the same meaning). I know he meant that maybe I wouldn’t waste so much time. But, thinking on it, I realized that by giving me the gift of reading, my parents gave me a place in a changing universe. They gave me a touchstone. They gave me something that has become an integral part of my marrow.
I found the Top Ten book in the clearance section of 1/2 Price books. Bookstores are another favorite haunt of mine. It looked really interesting, and I often look for ways to find something new to read. Dave and I have been friends since 2006, and we often talked about reading and books. Dave actually reads more than I do (even before I had Amelia). I had the idea of starting a blog with him. I knew I needed motivation to actually read the books in there. I talked to Dave, he bought his own copy and we discussed how we would do it.
The reason I started doing this was that I wanted motivation to read more of the classics that were lacking in my reading history. The reason I continued is because the books I’ve been reading for this have stronger stories than most books. The characters linger longer. The language floats in your soul. I think there is a reason these books have been listed on authors’ top ten lists. These are books that linger with you. I’m excited to keep reading. Not just the standard classics are on this list, but unexpected ones. The Shining by Stephen King is in there. Which makes me grin, as years ago I said that The Shining could be taught in a modern novel class and fit right into the whole thing.
I know, even if Dave decides he’s quits with the whole thing that I will probably keep reading on the lists. Without him it’ll of course take me longer, so I must throw myself at his virtual feet and beg his continuation of this.
Some quotations to leave you with.
“I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book” Groucho Marx
“Read in order to live” Gustave Flaubert (which if you remember, is the author of Madame Bovary which I read a few weeks ago)
“Reading takes us away from home, but more important, it finds homes from us everywhere”. Hazel Rochman
“There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them” Joseph Brodskey
And last, because it made me laugh is:
“Everyone probably thinks that I’m a raving nymphomaniac, that I have an insatiable sexual appetite, when the truth is I’d rather read a book.”-Madonna 1991