As a child my mom would offer to pay me a dollar for finishing one of my many American girl books. I’d skim through them but remained completely uninterested. I had yet to read a book that sparked my imagination. Somewhere along the way that spark eventually caught fire to something deep inside me. I finished a book I was forced to read for school finally feeling that sense of accomplishment that couples with reading a book cover to cover. After that I was hooked.
There’s a series of books and events that I believe have lead me to become the reader I am today. This is that story.
In fourth or fifth grade I read Out of the Dust. The book captured the dryness of the 1930s dust bowl through the fictional eyes of a little girl. I still remember the desperation of the people during that time and I remember the strained relationship the little girl had with her father. I completed a project on the book which entailed summarizing the story and its characters on a poster board folded book jacket. I was proud of myself for not only finishing the book and project but for allowing myself to become engrossed in the words on every page. I’d found a new love for reading. I received a C on that project. I remember that vividly because my teacher hung each book jacket on the ceiling above our desks. My big red C spun above me for at least a week and I wondered where the disconnect came. I loved the book. I tried my hardest to emulate that through my work but it didn’t translate, at least to my teacher. As much as I could have let that discourage me I continued seeking new worlds through thousands of pages.
Sometime after that I read Homeless Bird. That’s the first book that opened my eyes to the wonder of different cultures. Which remains a favorite genre of mine.
Following Homeless Bird I had to read Esperanza Rising for school. I encountered my first book block and didn’t actually make any headway on it until I found my sister at the kitchen table one day with the book in her hand. She’d just finished it and encouraged me to read it. Soon after that I flew through the pages all the way to the end. Then and there Nadir and I had our first book discussion. Our first of many. She loaned me The Bean Trees which I read one hot summer spread across the living room wingback chair. Wingbacks truly are the best for reading are they not? The Bean Trees was my first true adult novel and I devoured it.
I moved on to the Secret Life of Bees which kept me wanting more out of stories. On to The Sugar Island which taught me that although I didn’t particularly care for a blah story, reading was still reading. It remained my favorite pastime always leaving me hungry for more. Nadir at some point when I was in High School finished A Bend in the Road by Nicholas Sparks. I have this vivid memory of her stepping out of her room with tissues in hand. Tears steadily streamed down her face. “I finished it.” She muttered. “It was so good.” She said as she continued to sob. That Nicholas Sparks. He’ll get you every time. It was then that I realized just how much emotion could come with this new hobby of mine. I want to feel that rawness I thought to myself. I want to become so engrossed in a book that I can’t contain my emotions. I want them to change my perspectives. I want them to blow my world apart and step in someone elses shoes while my eyes remain fixed on their words.
Nadir read Memoirs of a Geisha, then she passed it on to me. This was the first time I truly became attached to a story’s characters. Feeling their pain and wanting more for them.
“I don’t want Sayuri to be with Nobu!” I pleaded with my sister. “She loves the Chairman. Tell me she ends up with the chairman or I won’t finish it.”
Nadir smiled and encouraged me to open my book back up and keep reading. I came across my first complex characters in Memoirs. As much as I wish to explain them to you here you simply won’t understand until you read the book yourself and form your own attachments. This book completely broke my heart in the best and worst ways.
If it weren’t for Nadir’s encouragement or vulnerability I might not be the reader I am today. The people around us truly shape who we are whether we choose to believe that or not.
Soon after Memoirs I read The Lovely Bones which left me angry. Every page was painful to finish leaving me feeling so out of control just as the main character of the story had been. I wanted to rip her from the pages. I wanted to write a new story for her and erase all of the horrible parts. I wanted justice for her. Every few chapters I’d walk into Nadir’s room furious. At some point I’m certain I even threw the book across the room. She lay there, bright blue cover begging for me to finish her story out. Ultimately I was left unsatisfied with the ending. But something greater had happened in my world of reading. I’d felt it all now. The full spectrum of emotions that authors invoke upon their readers.
Since those days I’ve read dozens of books. Goodreads pushes a reading challenge each year which has helped me to keep up with my reading regularly. You can catch my most recent reads below ↓
Last year my reading consisted of memoirs and nonfiction in general. I also thought a ton about foster care spending my free time educating myself on not only the system but those children within it.
Perhaps it’s because I only read two novels last year, but this year has been loaded with Fiction. Fiction is the literary vacation and I’m enjoying it while it lasts.
- Howl’s Moving Castle
- All the Light We Cannot See
- Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
- Fahrenheit 451
- Cloud Atlas
- The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
- Mary Poppins
- The Gunslinger
You’re probably thinking my reading material is rather eclectic which would be absolutely correct. Generally I’ll reach for anything from dystopian, to classic, to cultural fiction, to a good honest memoir. I am however always up for reading anything recommended.
If you’re curious what has been added to my ever growing To Read list you can check that out here.