Reading Life

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I started with books that my sister, Brenda, brought home. She was one year older, and already in school. I could spell my name; I knew the alphabet and many of the letter sounds. I was anxious to learn the mysteries of reading. I would crawl under the kitchen table with a book and – with the quiet and privacy afforded in that space, try to unravel the puzzle. I remember great joy when the letter sounds worked together to reveal a word that I was familiar with. I remember crying in frustration when I couldn’t understand. Once, my mother crawled under the table, wiped away my tears, and explained that K-N-E-W was pronounced “noo,” not “canoe,” and that it did make sense when read that way.

Dick and Jane, of course, came next. Better books followed. I always read far ahead, so was bored with the in-class read-aloud sessions. I loved the library, right across the street from the school, and always brought home library books. Heidi was the first hardcover book I owned. Brenda had Little Women, and Aunt Betty brought us a stack of books that had been hers when she was a child, the rest of Louisa May Alcott’s children’s books, included. From there I moved on to Nancy Drew mysteries, then Agatha Christie mysteries and selections from my mother’s bookshelf. I loved White Fang by Jack London and was haunted by The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.

As an adult, I went through a stage where everything I read terrified me: Jaws, Helter Skelter, The Exorcist, Rosemary’s Baby, Alive. Then, taking English Literature classes in college, a whole new world opened up. Henry David Thoreau, Henry James, Herman Melville, and Emily Dickinson. Modern authors: E.B.White, Ernest Hemingway, Willa Cather, Maxine Hong Kingston and others. I currently love Kay Atkinson, Louise Erdrich and Laurie R King, and am happy when any of them put out a new book!

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