We don’t need a list of rights and wrongs, tables of dos and don’ts: we need books, time, and silence. ‘Thou shalt not’ is soon forgotten, but ‘Once upon a time’ lasts forever.PHILIP PULLMAN
I’ve always loved reading. As a child, I went to another world through the pages of books, a world I’ve never really left. Now I find I like to write them.
Beginning to read
Back then, a set of the World Book Encyclopedia provided hours of fascination. Its multiple volumes probably taught me how much fun research could be. Following leads meant putting one book down and taking another from the shelf, finding the related entry, then going back to where I’d started—a very different feeling from today’s click-and-go links.
I was lost in wonder as I wandered from aardvarks to geography, musical instruments to world flags and new-to-me lands and cultures in a kind of physicalized Wikipedia.
We’d go to the big public library every Saturday morning where there was a downstairs level for kids and an upstairs level for grown-ups. The maximum I could check out was ten books a week. The next weekend, I’d bring ten back, get ten more. I read everything I could get my hands on.
Explorations on pages
Adventure, biography, classics. I learned to appreciate how words could fit together from Charles Dickens. Later, I would fall in love with Jane Austen’s wit, Mary Shelley’s darkness and Thomas Hardy’s heartbreak. I love reading poetry and plays, too, though prefer hearing those read or performed.
An inspiring teacher for my fifth- and sixth-grade years gave our class a wonderful gift. Each day after lunch, Mrs. Kurtz would read to us for half an hour. She didn’t chose kid books, but great stories: A Tale of Two Cities. A Wrinkle in Time. The Twenty-One Balloons. Rebecca. The Phantom Tollbooth. Dozens more. I don’t know if anyone fell asleep in those early afternoons, but I was riveted, loving the sound as much as the stories themselves. Maybe that’s why I like audiobooks now.
More and more reading
Where did all that curiosity came from? I don’t know. Family legend says I taught myself to read at some pre-school age by picking up dad’s newspapers. I have no memory of that but my parents were both pretty literal, not at all fanciful or imaginative, so I doubt they made it up. Glad I still have the drive to explore.
I’ll be posting opinions, memories and recommendations, some current and trending, others examining the rich history of books, libraries and reading.
Consider this an open invitation to join the dialogue, ask and answer questions, and share your favorites.
illustration: Girls Reading, oil painting by Pablo Picasso