For The Love of Reading.

April 12, 2012 at 8:49 am | Posted in My life | 9 Comments

I am a reader; a lover of books. Always have been, since the moment I discovered that there were words EVERYWHERE and I could read them all.

My mother took us to the town library once a week, and I remember falling in love with the sheer number of books I could read if I wanted to.

In fourth grade, I won the library’s summer reading contest – I read something like 50 books that summer.

After that summer, when I was in fifth grade, I came back to school and tried to take out 7 books one week from my school library. I added a bunch of books the librarian thought too old for me from the Young Adult section. She also didn’t believe that I’d read that many.

So she called my mother, who assured her that I was a bookworm who would read every one, and that it was okay if I was taking out books that might be too old for me.

(As an aside, that is one of the things my parents really did well; they gave me the freedom of reading what I wanted, no matter how outlandish or old for me. I want to acknowledge it here because all of you hear how controlling my parents were. I may not have had much of a social life, but I was allowed to read whatever I wanted.)

From that day on, the librarian would pull aside books she thought I’d like the most and hold them for me. And by the time I was in the eighth grade, she was one of my favorite people. I’d spend lunch in the library with her, talking about books.

In sixth grade, I’d bring books to class and read instead of listening to the lessons. And was caught every time, of course. It was easy to spot – I’d have my head down on my desk and the book on my lap.

And bless my teacher, a reader (and writer) herself, who would just remind me gently that now wasn’t the time for reading, that there was math or geography or history to learn.

I LOVED immersing myself in my books. I read so deeply that I often wasn’t aware of what was going on around me or reading words on a page; books for me opened up into images I saw in my imagination.

It was better than movies, I thought, because the characters had flavors of ME in there. Beverly Cleary’s Ramona, for example, was ME – brown haired, brown eyed, and spunky. Things I could never be.

And by the time I was a teenager, I used books as an escape. Every day, I’d escape into a book, devour the pages. And I got to the point where I could read massive books in one sitting.

Like Stephen King’s IT, on a vacation day once. It took me eight hours, but I read all 823 pages. I started after breakfast, stopped to eat lunch, stopped to eat dinner, and finished it before the bedtime.

It was REALLY hard for me to pull myself out of the story; I had this sense I was suspended, time paused, until I could get back to the book. It was like the book world had become more real to me than my real life, that I was losing track of what was reality and what was fantasy.

I loved it.

I loved the idea that I could be like Alice and the Looking Glass, that there was this whole other world I could enter through the most mundane of items – a book.

That’s why I was an English major in college, of course. It was for the reading. Often I had courses where I had to read three different books during the same week.

I loved nothing more than going off to the Old Chapel – the marching band’s headquarters – sinking into one of the old couches there and reading for hours while the din of my friends coming and goings swirled around me. My friends used to make fun of my obliviousness; they’d talk about me and try and get my attention and laugh when I didn’t pay any attention.

Even Charlie has learned that when I’m deep in the recesses of a book, he has to interrupt me carefully and that if it’s not important, to let it go and talk to me when I’ve come out of the book.

Since becoming a mom, I have had a lot less time to read. And the sort of reading I do now is so hard. A chapter at night. Stolen time on vacation for maybe 100 pages.

Sips and nibbles here and there.

Because I don’t have hours to devote to reading, I can’t devour a book anymore, and my tastes have changed as well. I read a lot more non-fiction now. Biographies. Parenting books. Books on running. Magazines.

It’s been really hard. I miss that feeling of being in between two worlds; escaping into my imagination. I miss feeling like Alice; that anything’s possible the moment I open a book.

When I left my full time job, I also gave up my awesome half-hour-on-back-roads commute in the morning.

Last month my client was 50 miles from my house. The traffic wasn’t all that bad, mostly because I was able to take the outer beltway from my house to the client.

This client, however? I’m commuting into and out of Boston. And even though this client is only 39 miles from my house, it takes me, on average, an hour and 15 minutes to commute in.

I’ve gone through all my music and was SO bored. The monotony of the hour plus in traffic was really getting to me.

So Charlie Brown suggested that I try an audio book. He’s been listening to them on his commute to RI every day, and really enjoying them.

And even though I though, yeah, okay, that makes sense, I really didn’t WANT to. Because it’s not the same as delving into a good book, sinking onto a couch and opening the pages, diving into the story and watching it unfold through the eyes in my imagination. I’d still have to keep an eye on traffic, and listening to a story just isn’t the same.

But last weekend, on our weekly trip to the library with Lucky, I found myself in the audiobook section, and I picked one up.

What the hell, I thought.

It took me a little while to get used to the narrator. And how she plays the character of the grandfather, way more brusque than he’d sound in my own imagination. And the author of this particular book is VERY much in love with description. She’s poetic, but seriously there have been times I’ve yelled, Get back to the story already!!!

But I have to tell you. My commutes this week have been non-existent. I am aware of the traffic, sit in it with everyone else, but it’s like it’s in a different part of my brain.

I am completely captivated by the story. And every morning, when I get to my client’s office, I have that same feeling I do when I get time to devour a book; like I’m sloughing off that other world, like there’s just a LITTLE confusion between what’s real and what’s imagined.

It’s not the same as reading. But it’s nearly as good.



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  1. I read like that, too. I used to bring at least 2 books to school every day. Read at the dinner table. Under the covers at night.

    After I had the kids? I got the first generation Kindle almost immediately. Only way to read when you’re bouncing a baby or two in your arms!

    And still, now … I read, endlessly. I can’t do audiobooks though. I don’t need the feel of a book in my hands – e-books are fine – but I can’t STAND listening to someone else interpret the words.

  2. I look for audiobooks read by actors. I lisetened to an audio book that was read by James Spader. I think it was a Koontz story, he nailed the voices for me. I remember driving home from work one night listening to Spader doing the killers voice and getting chills up and down my spine.
    Also, some authors do their own audiobooks, I love those as well.
    Now that I have the iPad I’m finding ebooks to be awesome as well.

  3. Oh, I wish I could enjoy them. I can’t seem to get past the fact that they are never read with the intonation and feel that I have in my head and I keep getting caught up thinking about that and not the story šŸ˜¦

  4. Reading is definitely something I miss since the littles arrived, right up there with a bit of privacy in the bathroom. In fact I have a cousin who will lock herself in the bathroom for hours when she finds a good book. Her kids are old enough that that is the one place they won’t follow her to! For now a kindle is at the top of my wish list. I don’t think I could get into audiobooks but maybe I should give them a try.

  5. I love this post. Mainly because a lot of this is ME….I LOVE LOVE books. And I miss having my lunch hour at work to read. Right now I have no commute, but when I do–audio books are def an option. šŸ™‚

  6. I was a bookworm, too! And, totally did the “reading the book in the desk during class” routine. My mom says I used to hide under my bed to read books during Saturday chores. Living in DC, some of my friends with major commutes swear by books on tape! I hope that little O loves books as much as his mommy!

  7. I feel like I could have written this post! I have a hard time reading books electronically, too. It’s not the same as the smell and feel of paper, and takes me a lot longer to get into it. I too have read a lot of non-fiction since V was born – a genre I wasn’t into at all, before, but I found some really good ones if you want recommendations!

  8. This is totally ME too. I read voraciously as a kid and still do. I have books I reread every year (and I still cry at the same places).

    The hardest thing I find right now is between E. and the PhD there is very little time where I can rationalize just reading for myself, for fun. I keep trying to squeeze it in, but it’s hard.

    Can’t do e-readers. Don’t know about audio books, although I am intrigued that you are finding it a good option. But then I don’t drive during my commute, so I can grab a few minutes to read on the rare days where I’m going up to the uni.


  9. Totally me too. And sadly, the only time I seem to have to delve into a good book these days is when I’m on vacation (which hasn’t stopped me from BUYING new books, & they are piling up around the house…). Just keeping up with my online stuff, the daily papers & my magazine subscriptions is a challenge sometimes. I do have an e-reader & while it’s not quite the same as paper (can’t go back & forth to check something as easily, for example), it does save space & weight while travelling & commuting. : ) I haven’t tried audio books — good to know you would recommend them!

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