I’ve always liked to read. We belonged to the Scholastic Book Club and I got new books about once a month. I loved the books that won the Caldecott or Newbery Medals. There were all the books about Ramona Quimby, Where the Wild Things Are, The Story About Ping, The Five Chinese Brothers, Make Way for Ducklings, Blueberries for Sal, The Story of Ferdinand, Harry the Dirty Dog and Clifford the Big Red Dog. Or who could forget the adventures of Curious George and Madeline? As I got a little older, I graduated into Johnny Tremain, Are You There, God, It’s Me, Margaret, Henry Reed’s Babysitting Service, Charlotte’s Web, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, A Wrinkle in Time, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, Where the Red Fern Grows, The Island of Blue Dolphins, My Side of the Mountain, The Pearl, Lord of the Flies… Am I bringing back memories?
In junior high, I’d spend whole days in my room reading or re-reading books.
There was the stuff we read for class throughout high school – Oedipus Rex, Our Town, A Raisin in the Sun, Antigone, Flowers for Algernon, Hawaii, Macbeth, Everyman, Hamlet, The Odyssey, Romeo and Juliet, 1984, The Great Gatsby, The Taming of the Shrew, The Catcher in the Rye, Beowulf, Death of a Salesman, The Canterbury Tales, The Iliad, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and Les Miserables. I know there are more, but my memory is shit.
I don’t know how many times I read Jaws. I know I read The Bourne Identity at least twice. I managed to get all but about 20 pages from the end of The Stand. Same with Alaska. I loved The Drifters. Swallowed up Hermann Hesse. I read some of the same books my dad was reading at the time – The World According to Garp, The Hotel New Hampshire, The Stories of John Cheever, short stories by John Updike. I blew through the V.C. Andrews books my mom was reading, too. I remember reading The Name of the Rose, 2001: A Space Odyssey, 2010: Odyssey 2, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, The Valley of the Horses (I couldn’t finish it), Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Go Ask Alice, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Star Wars, Shogun, Helter Skelter, All Things Bright and Beautiful, Love Story, tons and tons of poetry and who knows what else.
College brought probably less pleasure reading and more required stuff. Textbook stuff mostly. There was a period during school that I wanted to understand more about serial killers and read books about all of them I could find. I learned things about human behavior that I’m still not sure I wanted to know existed. I picked up Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses, but still haven’t bothered to read it.
During and after college, I know I focused a lot on short stories. They were well written and didn’t take a lot of time to read. I had a subscription to Story Magazine and started collecting the annual anthologies. I’m still mad that I got rid of both of those. A coworker got me started on Outlander in the mid-90s. Those books brought out the binge reader in me. I remember more than once sitting in my bed unable to put those books down. John Sandford was another writer whose books started filling my shelves. I own all of his books. I read and enjoyed the entire Master and Commander series.
Over the years I’ve tackled a lot of the required reading from the old days as well as some newer novels along the way. I’ve read some good stuff and some bad stuff and some really weird stuff. I figured out somewhere along the way that I really like a good, well written story with relatable characters.
So what am I reading now? At last count, there were roughly 1100 books in my Kindle library, not counting those that were borrowed and returned to the library. My physical library probably has a few hundred in it, too. With all these books you’d think it would be easy to find something to read and get them out of the way. Ha!
In the last year or so, I’ve read a lot by Brene Brown. I’ve tried to read books before the movies, so both versions of Girl on the Train, The Time Traveler’s Wife, The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo series, the Game of Thrones books, Wonder… When I was traveling, I read a lot of short stories in between tech books for work. I’ve got The Best American Mystery Stories of 2017 sitting on my nightstand. I’ve read the first 2 stories in it. As much as I think I have time for books, I keep finding other things to do. I’ve been puttering reading for the last maybe 6 months.
The last book I read to the end was Sherman Alexie’s You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me: A Memoir. If you don’t know Alexie, he’s a Native poet, short story writer, novelist, and performer. I’ve been keeping some sort of journal most of my life. In high school, it was copying poems and other things that struck me as things I needed to remember in my life. So, a lot of Frost, Sara Teasdale, Emily Dickins, etc. These days it’s different. I haven’t done much creative writing since college. A poem here and there. Pieces of things for short stories. Mostly just live streaming the things that were going on in my life and processing through them. It was Alexie’s memoir to his mother that inspired me to write poetry again. I put maybe a half dozen poems in a notebook while I was in Denver in October. Then… I lost the notebook at the airport. I tried 9 ways from Sunday to get it back and was not successful. Not sure what karma was thinking there… I can’t remember a single word I wrote in those poems. Unusual for me. Writing things down used to commit things to memory – it was how I got through high school and college. Maybe those were words that I just needed to let go to the wind.
One of these days I’ll put the ideas for my short stories together and actually come up with something readable.