I've loved books since my parents read them to me as a baby. Caps for Sale, Love You Forever, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. I loved them all. Stories with Mummy made bedtime special. Abba would sit at the library with me for hours, surrounded by the elusive smell coming off of more picture books than we could ever read.
Skip ahead a few years to kindergarten. I was not among the ranks of early readers in my peer group. I still loved being read to, it was an irreplaceable form of quality time, and I saw no need to read on my own. By second grade, I had landed squarely in the tiny, remedial reading group. I remained unperturbed. I didn’t feel a pull to read the chapter books stronger readers in my class read. The benefits of reading proficiency didn’t seem to outweigh the difficulties of practicing and learning how to read.
Enter Junie B. Jones. The title character of the cutest series of chapter books, she became my new best friend. Seriously. She was witty and fun to be around, I was hooked. After being introduced to her, I learned how to read in short order and well-meaning great aunts stopped harassing my mother. On that account, at least.
Over the next years I read and read and read. It was definitely of the quantity over quality variety. I devoured books the way my little sister was famous for adorably devouring steak. I don’t mean to brag, but I soared to the top scores of reading comprehension tests. In later years I would laugh at how brainy I thought I was for reading so much, how proud my mother was that I loved to read. The kind of popular, children’s books and young adult fiction I read in those years wasn’t worth a lot in my snooty, late high school estimation. I would scoff that I used to call The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants my favourite book. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Enter high school and Elizabeth Bennet, my new best friend. Seriously. At this point in the post, my family’s rolling their eyes and stifling (or not) giggles. I was a tad obsessed with Pride and Prejudice in high school. Here, the fam steps in with a correction: “A tad obsessed? Yeah, and the sun’s a little warm.” Whatever. High school sucks and you cling to anything you can to make it out alive.
There’s a whole story about how my favourite English teacher ever introduced me to Jane. (Yes, Jane Austen and I are on a first basis. Deal with it.) In high school I would have bored you with the story. In fact, I wrote about it ad nauseam on the blog I had back then. I was super cool like that. I had elevated the tale into my origin story, raised it to a personal mythology. How My Love Affair with Great Literature Began. Super cool.
This was followed by reading a quick succession of classics, recommended by the same English teacher. I read little else but Great Literature, because little else was acceptable by my newfound snooty standards. Did I love all the classics, all the Great Literature? Nope. Mostly I did, but, more importantly, I was trying to maintain a persona here, okay?
I graduated from high school, went to sem, went to college, got married, still went to college. Somewhere along that journey, the snooty phase ended. Good riddance.
I'll still tell you that Pride and Prejudice is my favourite novel, that Jane Austen was the greatest novelist who ever lived. I've read the novel eleven times in the past six years and seen the five and a half hour film adaptation about as many times. I even made my husband sit through it with me. He totally loved it, by the way.
Now I read whatever I want. I don’t try to impress anyone, not even myself. I read great literature, I read chick lit. I read poetry, but only when the fancy strikes. Lately I’ve been reading memoirs and nonfiction. Especially feminist nonfiction like my latest reads Cinderella Ate My Daughter and Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History.
I can't wait for you to join me on my journey, sitting in the corner with my nose in a book!