What is your reading history?

January 21, 2007 at 10:00 am | Posted in genre fiction, librarian, non-fiction, reading history | Leave a comment

girl-reading.jpgMy family swears that my head was perpetually in a book from ages 4 to 14. My two earliest memories are of Golden Book bedtime stories with my dad, and of receiving my first mail: monthly books from Dr. Seuss’s book club. The prized possession of my childhood book collection was an illustrated encyclopedia set from A&P supermarket. I suspect my current preference for non-fiction traces back to hours spent pouring over the garish color drawings and text in those spare volumes.  

I discovered the Little House on the Prairie books in third grade( age 8). These books were a portal to an alternative universe for a city kid whose artsy parents thought a field trip was only a visit to the Met. I’d bike to the park, sit under a tree, and be transported, captivated by the challenges of frontier life.I raced through the series in about a year, and remember being dejected when I ran out of books to read. I think I switched to Nancy Drew  mysteries then, which propelled me through elementary school.

Next came an obsession with comic books, particularly Mad magazine and the Archie series. I never got interested in superhero or science fiction comics, but I did turn to science fiction stories and novellas during the early high school years. I gravitated toward Harlan Ellison, Philip Jose Farmer and Isaac Asimov. I recall that I didn’t care much for LeGuin-style fantasy/sci fi works.

In middle school, I enjoyed the Austen and Bronte classics, but this interest in historical romance led only to a dalliance with Georgette Heyer novels in 8-9th grade. In 9th grade, I read Gone with the Wind, after which other romances paled by comparison, so I gave them up. As a high school junior, I read a lot of existential and absurdist works by authors such as Kafka, Ionesco, Brecht and Beckett.  Starting in college, I stopped reading fiction altogether for over two decades, though this wasn’t a conscious decision at the time. Instead, I watched a lot of movies, some TV, listened to music and read the occasional essay, magazine, short story or non-fiction best seller. My husband wasn’t a pleasure reader in those days, so it seemed anti-social to read during a precious hour or two of free time.  

Even today, as a librarian-in-training, I feel guilty “reading for pleasure” unless I’m on vacation, killing time or required to read for a class. For a free read, I’ll peruse a magazine or seek a  best-selling non-fiction book of travel, psychology, popular culture, technology or science. I confess to enjoying a good “chick lit” or “cozy mystery” as a way to unwind after a grueling day.

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