I love to read! Let me clarify that… I loved to read. In recent years I have found it difficult to get through a book. I no longer invest the time it takes to complete an actual book. Why is that I have wondered. I have spent all of my life reading every book I could get my hands on, every cereal box placed in front of me, just about anything with the printed word!
So why now, when I actually have time to read has it become such a chore?
Let me go back to how my love of reading began. It started with my father. My father was one of the smartest and most well read people I have ever known. He grew up in a in a rural area during the Great Depression. He only completed the eighth grade before he was called home to work full time on the farm. Probably not uncommon for many kids of the era. By the age of 15, he fled his home (with the blessing of his mother), to enlist in the US Navy and his ‘real’ education began. Perhaps it was during this time he developed a thirst for knowledge and a love of reading, I don’t really know. I do know he read everything you could imagine. It makes me wonder if his life had been different what doors might have been opened to him!!
Not only did he share his love of reading, Dad introduced us to poetry. He read to us about the moon being the North wind’s cookie, about the Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat, The Owl and the Pussycat (who went to sea in a beautiful pea-green boat) but his very favorite was anything written by Robert W. Service.
This poet wrote of the gold-seeking days of the Yukon. When I was in the 7th grade there was an all school speech contest. While others entrants were focusing on Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Longfellow, and other more conventional poets, he encouraged a very shy me to enter and memorize the entire saga of The Cremation of Sam McGee. Perhaps not a junior high school literary choice by some but I actually won first place with that poem. To this day I can still recite most of it (but cannot remember my bank password)! The following year we moved on to The Ballad of Salvation Bill but no prize. Since it is a story about a crusty old drunken prospector and a preacher, the novelty might have been lost on the judges that year.
I still have my father’s treasured poetry books.
We were not allowed to read comic books because Dad said if you were going to read, read a real book (he excluded the Sunday funny papers from this rule). Because of him, some my earliest memories are the hours spent in libraries. Having a library card was like having a golden key to a wide world of possibilities. I worked my way through The Bobbsey Twins,
Ellen Tibbetts, Henry Huggins (and Ribsy), Trixie Beldon, The Happy Hollisters, and just about anything else. As a pre-teen, I moved on to Nancy Drew, the famous girl sleuth.
Next came The Hardy Boys. I loved mysteries! I was scouring school libraries and exploring all of the library branches I could talk my parents into driving me to. I checked out the maximum number of books allowed and read most of them. I grew up in a time when you did not own many books but the ones I had-I read them over and over!! I was never without a book in my hands.
In high school we were required to read many books.
The Iliad, The Odessy, Grapes of Wrath (which turned out to be my all time favorite book) The Jungle, The Great Gatsby, Anne Frank, Catcher in the Rye, and many more. The required reading continued in college. Don Quixote, Canterbury Tales. Malcom X-I was just never as fond of reading when it was required. I read many of the classics such as; Hans Brinker, Heidi, Jane Eyre, John Steinbeck, Moby Dick, Treasure Island, To Kill a Mockingbird, Black Beauty, Mark Twain-some as a child, some by choice-others required. My first grown-up type novel was when I “borrowed” an Ian Flemming-James Bond book.
I probably said good bye to the books of my youth after that.
And then I became a mom. Although I liked the popular fiction of the day-Love Story, The Exorcist, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, James Michener books, Looking For Mr Goodbar, and The Thornbirds …
Dr. Seuss, The Berenstain Bears, Goodnight Moon, and Where The Wild Things Are now became a huge part of my reading. When my kids had required reading (and long faces) we would read together. I was now reading Newbery and Caldecott Medal books while trying to inspire them to enjoy reading as much as I did. I too was reading them poetry with their favorite being The Spider and the Fly. When the romance novels came on the scene I was hooked. Sea Captains, castles, Southern mansions-the longer the saga the better. Later it was popular fiction authors such as; Stephen King, Robert Ludlum, Dean Knootz, Jean Auel, John Grishman, David Baldacci, Jeffery Archer, and Nelson DeMille. I spent many nights turning just one more page.
So subtly did my love of reading slow down I didn’t notice for awhile. My coworkers shared books around the office. It seemed to take me forever to complete so I stopped accepting them. No longer did I ask for a particular book or bookstore gift card for my birthday. My friends, who are avid readers, made some fabulous suggestions and I would dutifully jot down the titles with the best of intentions of reading them. I would reserve books at the library, scour the bookshelves of friends and family, frequent the second hand book shops and read book reviews. I read a few of them. Some I started but never finished. If I did finish a book it might take me months to turn that last page. I still love books and have a pile just waiting for me. I have a collection of antique books. I still check out books from the library.
I want to read, I really do. It isn’t for poor eyesight, overdue library fines, time, or lack of good titles to select from…
So what is it?
I have no idea.