Last week, author Jennifer Crusie wrote a blog post titled Bibliamnesia at www.arghink.com
It was an interesting discussion. Go and check it out. The post was about books that we had read at a younger age and then found on re-reading that they no longer spoke to us, or worse, that we couldn’t even remember. I thought long and hard but couldn’t come up with any titles or authors. It seemed I loved everything I’d ever read. That intrigued me because so many of Jenny’s readers had wonderful examples. Then I got to thinking about books and how at different times in my life I read different types and how they all provided me with what I seemed to need from an emotional viewpoint. They educated, comforted, and provided an escape, or better yet, an adventure. It would be disloyal to those old friends to say they no longer mattered. I know. I’m weird. Here is a photo of the shelf closest to my writing desk.
When you grow up in a small house with six siblings, two parents, a couple of dogs and cats and a backyard henhouse, it’s kind of hard to find some quiet time. Reading for me was a huge escape. I had my favorite fallen tree trunk down in the back paddock. If I sat behind it nobody could see me from the house, and yet I was close enough to hear Mum call us in for dinner, which was a very important thing in my young life.
Anyway, I thought about the books I read as a young girl. My parents belonged to a book club and received a book-a-month. I read those even if they were beyond my years. I had a library card and I used it often. We mostly read the British classics in school. My personal reading choices were all about the desire to be somewhere else, anywhere but with my family. And as a pre-teen, my chosen reading materials all had heroines who were solving mysteries. Romance was in the far distant future. Then in my early teens I read a lot of adventure stories because my older brother read those, and I thought he was so smart. From mid-teens to eighteen I read escape stories … you know the type that swept you up and took you to remote Scottish Islands, or England, or for me America (because I grew up in Australia.)
From late teens into early twenties, I was involved with learning everything about nursing. As a nurse-in- training, I read everything on anatomy and physiology, biochemistry, and of course, psychology. It was the latter that I loved the most. I was heavily into dating at this point in my life, plus studying, and working long hard shifts at the hospital, so there wasn’t much time for escapist reading, but I kept up with whatever was hitting the bestseller lists. After getting my RN degree, I moved away from home and became an airline stewardess for a couple of years, and had all kinds of wonderful experiences. And I read a lot on those lay-overs, or while waiting in airports. And yet, still no romantic fiction. Then I moved to the United States. Wow! I was living my adventures. Some years later, I married and began to raise a family and reading for pleasure took another back seat, except of course, reading to the kids. But I did keep up with the Robert Ludlum’s and Ken Follett’s, and an occasional bestseller that was highly recommended. Some years later, I divorced, and then came the years of self-help books. Oh yes, I had a library full of them. : )
The kids grew and went off to do what kids do, and I dipped my toe into the world of romance, but only a toe, with an occasional Danielle Steele, Maeve Binchy, Rosamunde Pilcher, or Nora Roberts. Distant places started calling me again, and I spent a lot of years travelling and experiencing all kinds of adventures. My gypsy soul was happy. Around twelve years ago, I started writing. I thought I was writing romance but those early attempts turned out to be women’s fiction. Someone introduced me to Romance Writers of America. Oh, dear. Where had I been? A whole new world opened up to me, and I had a ton of catching up to do. I read voraciously. I studied every style of romance novel that I could get my hands on, and discovered Jennifer Crusie, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Pat Gaffney, and Lani Diane Rich, to name a few. There were so many authors to admire and to want to emulate. And yet, I still read from the classics, and I read women’s fiction journeys, and the occasional mystery or thriller.
To say that any book I’d read no longer spoke to me would be like saying those years, those early experiences, didn’t matter. Each book, whether good, bad, or ugly, meant a lot to me. Each book helped me to understand myself better. I’m sure that if I tried to reread some of them now they wouldn’t stand the test of time due to style, value changes, a slower pace of living, or a less technological era. But I don’t need to reread them. They were what they were, special to me…at that time. I’m just going to hold them all dear. What about you? Is there something you’ve reread lately that had you scratching your head and thinking what was I thinking? Or have you reread something and given a huge sigh of satisfaction?