My Life as a Reader, Part 1 of Who-Knows-How-Many

I can’t wait to see how many parts this series ends up having.

I feel like I haven’t been doing enough reading lately. Then I realize that I read blog posts. I read comments to the blog posts. I read thinky articles linked in the comment to the blog posts. I read subreddits I read articles linked in the subreddits. I also am a member of Jenny Lawson’s Fantastic Strangelings Book Club, so I’m reading at least one book per month. I’m also about 3/4 of the way through one of the least gripping books I think I’ll ever have finished. Assuming I can make it that last 25%.

I’m also going back to reading National Geographics. Probably. I cracked open the latest issue that my dad has given me today, at least.

If I’m going to book-blog while I wait for my opportunity to travel to return, I figure that I should talk about my relationship with the written word.

I actually can’t remember a time when I couldn’t read. When the time came to help Alex learn to read, I asked my mom how she taught me to read and she said that, near as she could remember, I just picked up a book and read.

I remember that my mom signed me up for a children’s book club when I was little. It had books like One Kitten for Kim, and Andrew Henry’s Meadow, and Bear Circus. Bear Circus was published in 1971, so let’s say I was five or so.

Oh, and then there was The Mice Who Loved Words. I loved that book. I wonder what happened to all of those books. I hope my mom donated them to her library or something. It would make me happy to think of the kids of my now-underprivileged hometown reading the books that gave me so much pleasure when I was their age.

Then there was The Secret Garden. I often credit The Secret Garden as being the book that made me a reader. I was a bit young, I seem to recall that I was maybe eight* when my mom bought it for me. We went to the Kroch’s and Brentano’s at River Oaks in Calumet City and my mom bought something (I wasn’t really paying attention to what she was doing). She handed me a taped-shut white bag with “Kroch’s and Brentano’s” written all over it and told me that it contained one of her favorite books from when she was my age.

I opened the bag and there was the most daunting book I’d ever seen in my life. It had a few illustrations, but otherwise was just words. As I recall, I wasn’t expecting to be thrilled with it. But I opened the book and started to read.

Suddenly I found myself in India watching Mary, a lonely rich girl, lose everyone around her to cholera. I sat there as she was sent to live unhappily in the home of a clergyman in England, being teased by the children. Then she went to Yorkshire and things began to improve for her.

I fell in love. Both with reading and with the book. The family story, so I’m pretty sure it’s at least somewhat accurate, was that I was sitting in the back seat of the car when I finished The Secret Garden. I told my mom that I wished it hadn’t ended, so she said that I could read it again. I was silent for a long time so she turned around to see what was going on. She hadn’t intended for me to read it right away, but I had taken her literally. I had gone back to the beginning and was reading it again.

Now that I think of it, I’m not sure where my first comic book (Superman #280) fell in relation to The Secret Garden. I think The Secret Garden was not too long before the comic book, but I couldn’t swear to it.

As you can see, my Gratuitous Amazon Link is less gratuitous today. I’ve been doing a lot of Kindle books, what with COVID, but today I chose the paperback for one reason. The paperback has the same Tasha Tudor illustrations as my childhood version (which I reread until it literally fell apart) did. Maybe the illustrator of the Kindle version is amazing. I don’t know. I chose the illustrations I loved.

* I guess I might have been seven if it was before my first comic book.

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