Tuesday, February 5, 2008


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


  1. I too am a voracious reader and I feel the same way as you about reading!

    I have a little something something on my site for you!!

  2. Thanks Alison! I don't know why, but I have been craving a banana split all afternoon. And hey, when you get a chance, tell me about a good book you've read recently. (I am reading a very dense novel called A Thread of Grace by Mary Doria Russell, author of the really excellent The Sparrow -- having a little trouble plowing through this one but want to find out what happens to the characters.)

  3. Irene,

    Like you and Alison, I am a voracious reader. Funny thing is, I didn't begin reading as much as I do now, until my girls were all in school, and I had to slow down because I became ill. As my illness took hold, I began reading and never stopped! I buy so many books that we decided to make our living room into a library. My books were taking over. I cannot believe how much your dad reads! How does he manage to read a whole book in a day? I go through periods where I will read a book every couple of days, but never one in a whole day. Amazing!

    My pain therapist told me that she thinks the reason I love reading so much is because it is something that I can control. I can enter the world of my books as I wish, and then close them when I want to. I LOVE being surrounded by words, and hope someday, to be able to use them to write a book of my own. That is one of my goals.

    Interesting post! I hope that you are doing well.


  4. Hi Deb - I am so happy to hear reading serves as a tool for you in dealing with your illness. And I am all for a library as a living room! We have books in every room of this house - even the bathrooms! Books and photographs and art are the best decor, in my opinion.
    Reading really is a great education for being a writer. I can't wait to read your book someday! Meanwhile, the blog is a real treasure.
    Oh, about my dad: He is the executive director of Bismarck Cancer Center, which is a pretty demanding job. But he doesn't sleep much and he doesn't watch tv. And he's amazingly fast! He amazes me.


Your thoughts?