BiblioHistoria recently posted a book meme at her blog. While I don’t usually post memes here, I liked this one because it relates to books. So, with a tip of the hat to Historia, I am going to answer the meme questions myself here.
Do you remember how you developed a love for reading?
I remember three infuences in particular that shaped my love of reading, though there were doubtless more than these. First, my Nana, my mother’s mother, loved books and reading her whole life and expressed this love many times. She also had to give up going to college to help earn money for her family, and always wished she could have completed her education. Reading books was her way of getting that classical education she so desired, and she repeatedly emphasized the importance of books and education to us grandchildren.
Second, I grew up in a suburban Bay Area town. It was a new town and a small town at the time, a “planned community”, and it was still being developed. We did not have a movie theater until I was in high school, and I did not play too many sports. I also did not attend school in my own town; thus, shy kid that I was, I did not befriend too many kids in my own neighborhood. Suffice it to say that I spent much of my free time bike riding along a nearby levee on the San Francisco Bay, reading books, or doing homework. It was during this time that I learned that regardless of whatever I was experiencing or feeling at the time, some author, even if he had been dead hundreds of years, had experienced or felt the same thing and articulated it already. This realization was both a disappointment (my own personal brand of angst was unoriginal) and a source of joy (I was not alone in the world — it felt like the author reached out and took my hand when he or she articulated the feelings I myself was experiencing).
Third, the best English teacher I ever had, a teacher about whom I will tell you a lot more some day, was a big influence on my reading. He was my high school English teacher for two years. It is primarily thanks to his keen wit and literary genius that I learned to appreciate and came to love reading books of all kinds. He is also the reason I became a high school English teacher before I had kids.
What are some books you read as a child?
As a child, I loved (as you well know) the Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I went through a brief Nancy Drew phase. One book I remember reading more than once was From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by E.L. Konigsburg. My son Tom is now reading it in preparation for 5th grade this fall.
Just for laughs, I will share with you my adolescent favorites, which do not really include any of the “classics” (Austen, Bronte, Chaucer, Dante, Dickens, Homer, Shakespeare, Virgil — which I also did read during my high school and college years). Though I read many books in addition to these, these titles stand out in my memory as books I read for pleasure. I look back at the divergent subject areas and wonder just what kind of oddball teenager I was. I leave you to draw your own (likely hilarious) conclusions:
Read around age 13
Gone With the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell
A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens
Read around age 15
The Godfather, by Mario Puzo
The Sicilian, by Mario Puzo
The Fortunate Pilgrim, by Mario Puzo
Honor Thy Father, by Gay Talese (a true story of the Bonnano crime family)
Yes, I admit that I had a thing for reading about the mafia. I don’t know why. I think the appeal was both a love of reading descriptions of Italian food and a defense against all the stupid Judy Blume romance books, like Forever, that my friends were reading.
Hanta Yo, by Ruth Beebe Hill
Read around age 19
Silence, by Shusako Endo
Le Morte d’Arthur, by Thomas Malory
The Mists of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley
Meridian, by Alice Walker
What is your favorite genre?
Right now it’s historical fiction and any non-fiction about books, book collecting, and bookselling. Though, as you can see by my diverse teenage tastes, that’s always subject to change.
Do you have a favorite novel?
I have far too many to list here.
Where and when do you usually read?
As a mother of two, I read when and where I can. That means in bed before I fall asleep, when I wake up at 3:00 a.m. and can’t fall back to sleep, while I am watching soccer practice, and while I am sitting in the school carpool line. Bottom line: I always, always have one or two books in my purse or car, because I never know when I might be sitting around somewhere with little to do but read. I have a whole separate stack of books on my nightstand (and on the floor) next to my side of the bed.
Do you usually have more than one book you are reading at a time?
Of course. Usually two or three at once. Beyond that, it goes in my To Be Read pile(s).
Do you read nonfiction in a different way or place than you read fiction?
No. The only exception is if I am reading books to prepare for some kind of class I’m taking. Then I might take notes. If notes are needed, I sit in my “office” at my dining room table.
Do you buy most of the books you read, or borrow them, or check them out of the library?
I buy most of my books from all kinds of sources and I check them out from the library. I almost never borrow books. If someone has a book I’d like, I go buy it for myself. If I am not sure I would like it, I check it out from my local public library.
Do you keep most of the books you buy? If not, what do you do with them?
As I am a bookseller, I buy some books for resale, so I don’t get to keep those for long (I hope). Books I buy for my own reading pleasure I usually pass on to another friend or family member, except when I think I will want to re-read a particular book. (I rarely re-read books.)
If you have children, what are some of the favorite books you have shared with them? Were they some of the same ones you read as a child?
If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you know I’ve agonized over my two sons’ desire to spend all free time playing outside instead of reading. They each read at night for about a half hour before bedtime, and this only because I require it of them. I’d weep for the future, except they are my own children, and I love them. I also recently forced them to listen to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s By The Shores of Silver Lake (on CD) on our recent RV trip to Wilder’s hometown of DeSmet, South Dakota. They liked the story a lot, especially when they got to see the places described in the book. I have tried in vain to introduce to The Hardy Boys to my 10 year old. He likes books about airplane crash survivors instead.
What are you reading now?
Exiles, by Ron Hansen
Do you keep a TBR (to be read) list?
Yes, I do. I keep track of books I’d like to read in a little notebook that looks like an old-fashioned (well, not that old — it was in use during my lifetime) library check-out card with with due date stamps on it. The notebook is titled “Books to Check Out”. The problem with a TBR list is that by time I get to acquiring some of the books on said list I am no longer interested in reading them.
Additionally, I have a stack of actual books to be read — about a dozen at any given time. I keep this stack on my nightstand and, because if I stack them too high they will fall on me, on the floor next to my side of the bed.
What books would you like to reread?
I rarely re-read books. An exception to this is the novels I used to teach my high school students. I read those so many times and so frequently that I can still quote lines of text eight years later. The only books I really do re-read are usually books where I need to follow specific instructions, like cookbooks.
Who are your favorite authors?
Too numerous to list here. I’ll post the first few that come to mind:
Laura Ingalls Wilder
Ivan Doig (The Whistling Season is such a wonderful book, as are all of his others.)
I’m adding one more question to this meme, because it seems germane to the topic:
What books have you enjoyed and remembered regardless of their literary merit? (aka: Guilty Pleasures)
Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson
Any book in the Alex Plumtree series by Julie Kaewert (Unbound, Uncatalogued, Untitled, Unsigned, etc.)
The Billionaire’s Vinegar, by Benjamin Wallace (a great read, recommended by Jeremy at Philobiblos).
MaryJane’s Ideabook, Cookbook, Lifebook: For the Farmgirl in All of Us, by MaryJane Butters
There are many, many more books I’d like to list. I didn’t even touch on any classics, which I despised reading in high school but have come to appreciate and love with more life experience.
I know we all have different literary tastes. These are mine laid bare. Thanks for reading.
See you in the stacks!