Happiness is a Room Full of Books
Today is the 60th anniversary of the publication of Charlotte’s Web. On my morning commute, I heard the best story about E.B. White on NPR and his experience writing and recording the audio version of the book. Hearing that on a grouchy Monday morning instantly changed my mood.
Charlotte’s Web was my first chapter book that I read and it ignited a verocious reading habit. I devoured books as a kid, often reading faster than my parents could bring me to the library. I read just about anything I could get my hands on, frequently spending an entire weekend reading two or three books. I had the entire Babysitter’s Club series ( including the special double books!), Nancy Drew, and loved the Boxcar Children series which I took out of the library on a frequent basis. When I was in my tween years, I read A LOT of books by Lurlene McDaniel books, which my mother called “the sick books” because their teen characters always had some degree of chronic or terminal illness. I read a lot of the ‘classics’ early like Little Women, a book I return to over and over again as an adult. As I matured, I began reading a lot of Mary Higgins Clark suspense books in junior high. When mandatory novel reading became a big part of high school and college English classes, I looked forward to school vacations to read from own growing reading list.
In college, my reading world was expanded exponentially as various professors introduced me to amazing authors like Toni Morrison and Sarah Orne Jewett. I found my interests changed quickly in my pleasure reading- I became much more interested in novels with complex characters, creative writing, and beautiful prose. While I still read an occasional fun, quick read ( Jennifer Weiner’s wit gets me in every book), I was also looking to tackle the great pieces of the literary canon.
For me, reading is such an exciting and entertaining thing- far more than watching television. I love books that follow a character throughout time to see the development and evolution of the person, something that I don’t think is achieved in even an hour long TV drama ( Jennifer Haigh is my favorite at the moment for this skill). As a lover of history, the historical fiction genre has become a favorite, as have biographies. In the past few years I have been reading a lot of memoirs too. With suspense novels, sometimes I can barely read and turn the pages fast enough to find out what is going to happen. I am definitely one of those readers who feels disappointed sometimes when a book is over; I have frequently wondered how a random person is doing to only realize that it was a book character and not an in-real-life person that I actually know.
Some books to me are like a warm hug or that comfortable spot on the couch- safe places to return to on a cold, rainy day or when things are a bit down in life. Some books I have on my shelf I kept after reading because I loved them so much and wanted to keep them in my life, others I keep because I want to re-read them again ( though with only a few exceptions, this almost never happens). There are numerous books from college and grad school which I only read portions of for class or research that I hope to return to again. There are some books- like Eat Pray Love that I have not opened again on purpose; I enjoyed the book immensely, but during the tough times of my divorce, the emotions were still too raw to be able to handle it.
I often joke around that I only bought my house because of its abundance of built-in bookcases. Since cancelling cable last year, I’ve read a lot of books and magazines, spending hours of a work night enthralled in a great novel. My Amazon wish list serves as my reading list and it currently stands in the 500s, growing more each week. I am at my library at least once a week getting books- it is one of my favorite times of the week. When buying a new purse, it has to pass the ‘book test’ because I am never without a paperback in my bag ( yes I’m still an old-school physical book reader). As the saying goes- “Happiness is a room full of books!”
What was your first book memory? Any great recommendations for my list?