Reading is fundamental to what???? you might ask, to which I respond; “To living well.” I love books. I love the written word, I love that a good story can take me away from reality. I love that I can travel all over the world without leaving my chair. I started reading at a young age, about the same time everybody does. Remember Dick and Jane? I hated Dick, all that running, ick. Plus he was a boy. Double ick. A bit later, OK…. a few years later, I discovered books could transport me to another place and time during a book reading competition. I don’t remember how old I was or even how long the contest ran. I do remember reading 13 books to win. And Oh! how proud I was. I read the normal books in school; Nancy Drew, and The Hardy Boys, and The Bobbsey Twins. But by far my most favorite were stories written by Albert Payson Terhune and his beloved collies, especially Lad. Of “Lad, a Dog” fame. I loved those books so much I wrote a letter to Mr Terhune asking about Lad, and asking for an autograph. His estate actually responded to let me know that both Mr Terhune and Lad had died, but they were ever so happy I enjoyed the books. I was crushed, I cried for days. I stomped on that letter. Those estate people were mean! Didn’t they know Lad was still alive??? I just read about him saving that puppy yesterday!! Clearly I didn’t understand the whole fiction thing at that point. I mean, come on, everybody knew that Nancy Drew was a real girl! Right? Right???? In spite of my tears I kept reading and at some point I obviously got that these stories were made up. Except for Outlander, those are real and I’m so going to Scotland to the standing stones and going back in time to prove it. As usual, I digress. Back to the early days….. I read the stories of “Beautiful Joe” and “Black Beauty” and the “Black Stallion” series and of course, “White Fang,” Jack London was a master story teller. I read any book that had an animal theme. One of my favorites was “Boru, The story of an Irish Wolfhound.” (I fell in love with Irish Wolfhounds then and they are still one of my fave breeds). I found that book a couple of years ago in a little shop and it now sits proudly next to Terhune’s “Lad, a Dog” with other vintage books that bring back memories.
During my high school years I had access to my Grandmother’s books; She loved Zane Grey, and I quickly fell in love with the old west, where men were heroic and tall with piercing eyes and chiseled jaws, women were always beautiful with big violet eyes and soft, wavy hair, and dressed in outfits not suitable for riding the range, and they were usually rich. (Violet eyes? Violet???? It wasn’t enough they were beautiful and rich and impeccably dressed???) I so wanted to be one of those women, but I wasn’t rich, or beautiful, nor did I have the violet eye thing. Plus I didn’t have a horse and there was also the problem of no heroic cowboys within miles. Only gangly, boys. (Did I already say ick??) I also got to read her Steinbecks. “Of Mice and Men” and “Grapes of Wrath” resonate with me to this day. And no home was complete without copies of Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises” and “To Have and Have Not.” I started babysitting at 16 and the home of my kiddos was FILLED with books. There were TWO floor to ceiling bookcases, one on either side of the fireplace. And books on the coffee table and books piled willy nilly on the floor. (willy nilly apparently means haphazardly but is more fun to say, even mentally.) Those people were smart! Or at least I thought they were. (They may have been total morons and just had those books to impress teenagers and their friends). I thought I’d gone to my own private library heaven. After I put the kids to bed, I’d read. I quickly went through “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Catch 22.” “The Scarlet Letter” and later, “Valley of the Dolls” by Jacqueline Susan. I thought “Catcher in the Rye” was hilarious and remember to this day how I laughed out loud. I didn’t read every book in their collection. I thought that if I got caught reading “The Joy of Sex” I would die of embarrassment, so I only peeked at some of the pictures, and only looked for a second, maybe two. Three if they told me they would be out late.
Books still make me laugh out loud, or bring me to tears. Yes, I am a loud and proud emotional reader. Characters in books become REAL to me. There are stories written that I don’t want to end. Except for the “Outlander” series. I want that to conclude with Jaimie and Claire finally finding peace. And I want to live long enough to read the final one. This waiting 4 or 5 years between books is for the birds. (Apologies to Ms Gabaldon, your stories are superb, but could you maybe write a little faster?) Janet Evanovich is an author who never fails to make me belly laugh. My list of favorite authors right now runs the gamut. Flynn, Sandford, Unger, Coban, Child, (Come on, who doesn’t live by Reacher’s Rules?) Gabaldon. Mostly suspense, and mystery. I love a good mystery. I enjoy a good love story too, if it has some fighting and cool weapons and great sex scenes (Hey, That “Joy of Sex” book didn’t go to waste, I can recognize a good sex scene) and maybe there’s a courageous dog. I’m not into the heaving bosom kind of story, the kind where a gorgeous, voluptuous woman (hence the heaving bosom scenes) is taken by some surly, but handsome rake, only to fall in love. Too predictable. Altho I don’t object to a tall, handsome hero now and then. I mean, really, who wants a short, dorky hero?? Even if you don’t really enjoy reading, keep books around to help you look smart. You know, in case the President or the Pope come for a visit. You’ll want to impress those people. Seriously.
Bonus, a stack of books can be a pedestal for a statue, or plant, or a decorative doo dad. So functional as well as beautiful. The typical win win.
On a more serious note, a house is not a home without books. Books lend warmth to a room and help tell the story of the people within it. Coffee table books aren’t only decorative, they give a glimpse of who you are. Books and reading are a very important part of creating a sanctuary. You don’t need a library in your home. Just a comfy place to sit, a place for a cup of coffee….or a glass of Barqs Rootbeer, OK, maybe a glass of wine, or a beer, whatever. Perhaps some music playing in the background (or the ball game on mute). Reading in bed helps relax the mind (unless you’re reading about alien abduction, then not so much). Go to bed 10 or 15 minutes early and take a book with you. Well not literally WITH you. Sleeping with a book isn’t very comfortable and can leave weird wrinkles on your face. But having a book to hold and read for a few minutes before putting it aside and drifting off…… to dream of other worlds and times….Now that’s comfort. And you’ll wake up smarter. Or at least look smarter, unless you fall asleep WITH a book, in which case you may wake up smarter but you’ll also wake up with the a fore mentioned weird wrinkles. Read in bed at your own risk people. Get some books, reading is fundamental.