Friday, June 11, 2010

Julia Reads

I recently told my husband, "The world is coming to meet me." I was doing errands in Anchorage and I saw two people sitting in their cars and reading, while eating their lunch. Once upon a time, I was a lonely reading girl with glasses- no other bibliophiles or -phages and no other glasses-wearers.

Now almost everyone my age uses some prescription lenses and everyone is in a book club or has a Kindle or is trying to read more.

It took me a long time to be okay as a public reader, but on this eve of my 29th birthday, I will say, "My name is Julia and I like to read."

I like to read more than anything else. Forget the new car smell, if I could buy an air freshener in "Musty Book Store" or "Library of Congress", I would.

I keep a book list. I'm not the only one who does this. It's not uncommon. It's just that for many people who know me, I'm the only person they know who does this.

Since 2002, I have had a goal of reading 100 new books each year. While I was in seminary, I didn't count what I read for school. It had to be pleasure reading and that was it. I started this because of my tendency to read books that I love over and over. The book list spurred me forward into new territories. The book list helped me to grasp my reading habits and compelled me to try new genres and new authors.

For me, reading has been an escape, a balm, a teaching tool, a corrective, a mental sorbet, an anchor, an attractive nuisance, a diagnostic tool and much more.

I got glasses in kindergarten because I couldn't see the school bus coming up the street. Still wearing glasses for distance vision correction today, I can spot a sign that says, "BOOKS" at a 1/2 mile.

In first grade, my family moved. My new teacher tested my reading and I plowed through the various first grade readers, second grade readers and after the third grade reader- I was encouraged to read the Little House books on my own during reading time. (I have no idea why I couldn't fit in with others.)

At 10, I plowed through Gone With The Wind. It took me about five weeks. My parents rewarded me by renting the video of the movie, which caused me to rant (unto this day) about the discrepancies between the book and the movie. If I really like a book, I will not see the movie, with few exceptions.

In sixth grade, I wrote a lovely descriptive paper of my favorite room in the house: the bathroom- a place to read in peace.

When I was 13, I had a mystery lump that didn't go away. The day that I didn't want to go to the library, my mom called the doctor and said we were coming in right away. My hernia was diagnosed that evening.

Before it was fashionable to do so, I coveted the library Belle receives as a gift in the Disney movie "Beauty and the Beast".

Yesterday, someone introduced me to a young girl and said to me of her, "She loves to read more than anything else." I smiled, but I didn't say everything I thought and I watched her eyes look at me, wondering if I was going to say what everyone else says to her. I'm sure adults praise her for reading. I'm sure she feels odd out among her peers.

But here's what I say to her:

Read on. Use up the flashlight batteries. Ask always, "Can I take a book?" and don't take it personally when told "No." Make friends with librarians. Plow ahead through books that are interesting, but a little beyond you. You will come back to them. Read authors that famous and those that aren't. Read the book before the movie. Read the book after the movie. Run around the house 10 times. Read a chapter. Run around 10 times in the other direction. Read a chapter. Base your purse purchases on whether or not a book will fit in there.

Reading will help you recognize correct English. Reading will make you a better writer. Reading will fill in the gaps of your education. (I learned very interesting things from Mary Stewart's The Crystal Cave that I didn't get in school until about 6 years after I read the book.) Reading will make you question what you believe to be true and force you to tease out what is important. Reading will help you create dreams for yourself and help you to realize when the brass ring is coming by.

I loved pioneers over princesses, Scarlet over Melanie, survival over being swept off my feet. When the time came, I chose going to Alaska over going England. There were many reasons, but the choice was heavily influenced by reading.

When my now-husband and I were doing the initial questioning game that precedes actual dating, his friend "J" offered the best testimonial he could based on what he'd heard about me, "Rob reads." I remember being amused, "Good for him." But his vocabulary convinced me that he did, indeed, read.

I'm in a book club now. It's hard because I don't know the people outside of the club, but I love them because they read. And we talk about reading books together.

So, young reader, read on, read on. And when you think no one else is reading, join a game, make a friend, but don't pretend you're not a reader. You are! Be proud!

And, someday, you'll look around and realize everyone else has come to the land you've enjoyed for years. And you'll hold out your book list and say, "Welcome! We've been waiting for you!"

P.S. Since 1992, I've read 920 new books. I'm to 28 for this year. I'm pretty sure a new baby means no more 100 a year. I'm striving for 60 now.


LoieJ said...

Wow. I started out a reader and was an English major. Somewhere along the way, I started reading other types of books, magazines, things related to my interests and stopped reading novels. I still read a lot, especially on the 'net, but rarely novels. My pastor started a book club because she is such a reader and my good friends are in book clubs. The pastor's book group meets at the nursing home because one of the members is 95, lives there and is still a reader.

Book_Writer said...

(A note of disclosure - I am Julia's mother.) I had given Julia a gift for her birthday, but this blogpost is her birthday gift to me. (By the way, it is the custom in Germany for the birthday person to bestow gifts on his or her party guests.) It has given me great pleasure to gain insight into Julia's joy of reading. I will take some credit for starting her down that road. I wanted her to love to read, just as I did, and I think I started taking her to the library before she was two years old. She comes by her love of books naturally; my father used to snatch a book out of my hand and tell me to go outside and play. I was not athletic, so playing outside only intensified my sense of inadequacy. But behind the pages of a book, I could - and was - anyone I wanted to be. In elementary school, I arrived early and went to the school library so that I could shelve books. It was in those years between fourth and seventh grade that I vowed I would write a biography of a woman some day. I'll just add one little footnote to the hernia story - I called the doctor right away because Julia said that she didn't feel like going to the library. I knew for certain that something was seriously wrong! And, when I explained that to the nurse 15 minutes before the office's closing time, and told them it would be 30 minutes before we could get there, they agreed to stay open to wait for us. Yes, young reader, do read on... for all of the reasons that Julia has given, and more.