Want to know my dirty little secret? In college, I didn’t actually read the books. Well, that’s an exaggeration. I didn’t read all the books. I mean, c’mon! I was an English major. How was I supposed to read all those books and write the papers on them? Seriously, it was like a book a week or some crazy thing. I had a social life too, you know. There were football games to attend and keg parties to go to. And to me, those things were just as important as my education. (Hey, I was nineteen!)
I always felt bad about that. Everyone assumes that an English major is well-read. And the first piece of advice you ever hear about writing is that to write well, you need to read a lot of books.
So, I set about making up for lost time. I read a lot throughout my twenties and thirties. I consulted old reading lists. I read Oprah’s picks. I even bought into that Classic Book of the Month club until it proved too costly and I dropped out. I still have two books from then, leather-bound, edges leafed in gold: Moby Dick and Great Expectations. I started Great Expectations for the first time this weekend, spurred on by my own blog. The point is, it’s never too late.
It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it. ~Oscar Wilde
Though I strayed in college, I’d been a pretty voracious reader as a child and adolescent. I loved and collected all of the Nancy Drew series. I was shocked to learn they sell those in antique stores now. (Great.) As a child, my grandparents gave me The Boxcar Children about four orphans who run away and set up house in an old boxcar. The children wash and keep milk cold in a nearby stream. They find old dishes to use in a dump. It was one of my favorites — independent even then.
I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves.
I realized at a young age, the comfort a book can provide. I remember spending part of a summer at my aunt’s, desperately homesick. The only thing that consoled me was a book from my mom — The Wind in the Willows. This still applied 20 years later in Europe, alone in my tent, snuggled up to a copy of A Woman’s World: Traveler’s Tales.
Reading – the best state yet to keep absolute loneliness at bay.