I am of a personality type that likes to wallow in nostalgia, re-frame the past in light of present knowledge, et cetera. It sounds useless to many, I’m sure, but it’s just something my brain does without really checking with me first. I’m also of a personality type that enjoys stuff about personality types, which I know makes me kind of new-agey and unhip.
So, as a bookish gal, I’ve recently been thinking back on what I’ll call my formative reading experiences, the ones that seemed to seal my fate as someone with one foot perpetually in a world built of words.
I have a lot of them! Consider your own; they might surprise you.
1. Most of my earliest memories are of being read to by my aunts, siblings, parents, and grandmothers. I was often accused of having memorized my favorite books when actually I could read them. This was the first time I can remember feeling glowingly proud of myself.
2. When I started kindergarten, the teacher instructed me to go with another girl from the class to get reading books from first grade since we could already read. More glowing pride.
3. I “wrote a novel” in third grade which, let’s be real, was actually a plagiarized hybrid of the Baby-Sitters Club, Sweet Valley Twins, and Nancy Drew. What was it about? A set of identical twins with polar-opposite personalities who started a detective club.
4. In high school, I roamed Books-A-Million during my annual end-of-summer school shopping trip with my parents. I browsed the classics section exclusively and always came away with something I thought would make me look dark and interesting should a cute, date-able person cross my path. S/he never did, but I made up elaborate fantasy scenarios aplenty.
5. I always used books and music to cultivate an outsider image. I did this defensively because I was afraid my peers would do it hurtfully behind my back if I didn’t get ahead of them.
The day I came home from school shopping and read my new book, The Bell Jar, while listening to my new CD, Ani DiFranco’s Up Up Up Up Up Up was the perfect storm: my love for books, music, and seeming kind of dark all collided and forged an eternal link in my mind between those two works.
6. I read Lord of the Rings and the first three Harry Potter books the summer after my freshman year of college (summer 2002) and finally let go of my prejudice against fantasy literature. In graduate school, I found friends who were also Harry Potter fans, and we created a huge doc (MySpace post, I think?) that sorted all of our professors and peers into their respective houses, sometimes quite insultingly.
7. The feeling of freedom associated with the first book I read after finishing graduate school and entered the world of reading off of zero lists, to prepare for zero exams, and taking zero notes for the zero papers I had to write—it was delicious. I can’t actually remember what the book was without going back to my list of books I read in 2007, but I remember the lightness I felt while reading it. And every book I would read for the next year.
8. Getting an ereader. Begrudgingly warming up to it. Finally embracing it with both arms because it literally more than doubled the bookish goodness in my life in 2013.
What are your formative bookish experiences, readers?
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