My father is a voracious reader. He reads on average a book a day. He also loves listening to books and confessed to me recently that just for fun, he tried to see if he could actually read and listen AT THE SAME TIME.
Well, it didn't work. But you gotta admire the reading spirit going on there.
Of the five kids in our family, I am the only who inherited the reading gene. I can't claim the numbers my father's got, but I do read with a hunger. And it's got me thinking about why I read, about what it is I get from the reading experience.
For me, I think it's mostly about discovering new worlds and finding myself in the characters. I keep a reading journal of quotes and passages from the books I read --some of these find their way into my own writing, but mostly they represent a glimpse of myself, a little peek into my internal world. I love it when writers put things I've felt or experienced into words I never thought to string together. There is this aha! moment, this recognition, like looking into a lake on a sunny day and seeing a shimmery reflection.
Katherine Paterson, a writer whom I admire greatly, has a little different take on this. She says in her book The Invisible Child that the reason kids need books is to prepare them for the emotional experiences they will later encounter. She tells a story of someone thanking her for the book Bridge to Terebithia, because a child's best friend had died, and the book helped her in some way to deal with that loss. Paterson's response was, "too late, too late!" She believes children need these books BEFORE they know they need them.
So I wonder: what books most prepared me for my life? What books gave me some tools to help me survive the traumas and heartaches I've experienced? What books taught me to recognize the joy and love?
Well, I'm thinking. Meanwhile, here is a quote from my reading journal:
"He thinks how strange life is with its frayed edges and second chances; and though by morning he will have forgotten that he ever thought it, Gerard feels as though he is being followed, that there are voices he can’t hear, that the footsteps on snow on the window are just that, and like Lucy’s conception - life is a string of guided and subtle explosions."
- from The Secret Lives of People in Love by Simon Van Booy