I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t read; when there wasn’t a book in my hands or nearby. Even now there is a stack of books on my beside table and a separate pile on the floor next to my writing desk. That doesn’t begin to address the list of books I want to read someday. Luckily, that list grows several times per week with new releases or recommendations from friends and family.
As a child I read the “My Golden Books” with the faux gold spine and hard covers. Golden books led to Beverly Cleary’s books, then the Trixie Belden series, followed by the Pigman series, then Agatha Christie and Edgar Allen Poe. In middle school, when my friends “discovered” Judy Blume I was way ahead of them, I’d read her books years earlier. There was no limit to what I would read and there was no limit to how much I loved the worlds those books opened for me.
My mother is a voracious reader and she passed that love of books along to her children. We lived a lot of places when I was a kid and I don’t remember all of them, but I remember books, newspapers and magazines were our constant companions. Going to a bookstore or the library was often the highlight of my week. We spent Saturdays running family errands, but at the end of that underwhelming trip to the mall was the promise of the cookie store (fresh-baked cookies, yum!) and a stop at the bookstore. And now I recall why the smell of cookies in a mall makes me look for the nearest bookstore.
We also frequented the local library. For several years Mom let us get books on her card, just a few each time. One day, the nice lady behind the counter said I was old enough to have my own library card. You could have knocked me over, if you could have stopped me squealing with joy. I got to check out three books the first time and after that, as many as I could carry. I remember not knowing which books to choose first, there were so many.
I’ve been thinking about my childhood reading lately for two reasons. First: I’ve joined a website called Goodreads.com. On it, you can keep track of books you have read as well as books you want to read. And you can see what your friends are reading or have read, recommend books for them and see what they recommend for you. Lately, I’m trying to think of every book I’ve ever read. I can tell you that I’m not sure I’ll ever remember every book; there are literally thousands. But it’s a great trip down memory lane. Who was I then? What were my interests? What books shaped the person I am today?
The other reason is the recent passing of Donald J. Sobol. You may have never heard of him, but his series about the boy detective Leroy “Encyclopedia” Brown was a big a part of my elementary school years. I paused when I saw the article and recalled that Encyclopedia was a great friend to me. I don’t know where we lived when I first stumbled upon those books. I don’t even remember when I read the last one, but he was with me on each move for a few years.
You see books were my constant friends and companions when we changed addresses and schools. I don’t know the names of all of the kids I went to school with, but I remember the books. Whole worlds opened to me because someone took time to share their vision of the world as it is, was or could be.
Can you remember your first favorite book? What about the first author who wrote so well you wanted to read everything they wrote? Now, what about the writer or writers who made you believe you could create a world for others to escape into?
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