Tuesday, August 20, 2013

On Books and Reading

I bring to you today a rather rambling musing on books and reading.  This post is inspired by The End of Your Life Book Club, which I just finished reading. It's the first book I've encountered that so unabashedly celebrates a love for reading.   It also reminded me how much I enjoyed browsing bookstores, looking at dust jackets and paperback covers (totally judging books by their cover), thumbing through and selecting random passages to pique my interest.  In the era of e-books, I must revisit this pastime more often.

Growing up, reading was never outwardly discouraged by my parents, but they made clear that novels were an indulgence, a leisure activity, to be enjoyed when possible but not to be pursued at the expense of other (more worthwhile) activities. Needless to say, I also picked up some social cues that it was not cool to be such a lover of books nerd.  Reading is no longer such a clandestine affair, but I do still feel twinges of embarassment whenever someone discovers just how much I like to read. 

I have always loved reading, particularly fiction.  It all happened innocently enough, when I was still an only child unfamiliar with the English language, grappling with the consequences of growing up with immigrant parents who were doing the very best that they could, but still could not help me reconcile the worlds of difference between theirs and mine.  Every time I opened a book, I had instant access to a magical place, where I did not have to worry whether I pronounced words correctly or whether I could kick the ball hard enough.  I grew to love the stories that books provided: the friends that were, the parents that were not, the loves lost, the loves regained, the tragic endings, the happy conclusions.

I guess then it comes as no surprise that my love for reading and books has only blossomed over time.  Lately I have begun to run a phrase or a particularly lyrical section of prose through my head a few times, appreciating the writer's genius in those few lines and savoring the sound of the consonants and vowels as they hit my palate.  Perhaps I am finally ready for poetry. 

Unfortunately for my friends and loved ones, all of this means that they likely at one point or other have been on the receiving end of one of my spells (the one where I am caught in the feverish grip of a book and cannot seem to put it down).  I stayed up after the other girls at a slumber party in order to finish Constance, ignored my friend for many hours as I devoured The Poisonwood Bible while on a cruise down the Yangtze, sped through Pride and Prejudice in one sitting at a family friend's barbecue party, turned a deaf ear to my sister as I finished Caleb's Crossing in one afternoon on vacation...the list runs on and on.  I'm afraid I can't even begin to catalogue the number of conversations with Michael that might have been clouded over by a novel. 

(In fact, in recounting these incidents, I am really embarassed at how inconsiderate I can be when lost in a book.  Thank you, especially Amanda and Michael, for putting up with me during these moments.)

My favorite story is probably the one where my dad left me in a bookstore while he went to run some errands (in the era before cell phones).  He came back and could not find me - after having the store page me repeatedly, he gave up.  It was only after I emerged from the fog of my book to look for him many minutes later that we found each other.  I never heard any of the store's pages.

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