I love to read. In fact, falling headlong into a fascinating page-turner is one of my favorite things to do—summertime or wintertime, rainy days or sunny days, anytime. But it wasn’t always like that for me.
When I was growing up, I longed to be an avid reader. When my older sister would pick her 4 or 5 books from the library to get her through a week of summer vacation, I would do the same, but I just couldn’t stay connected to the plot long enough to finish a book. I knew the first few chapters of several young adult fiction titles and that was it. Not knowing how the plotline moved forward or how the characters resolved their conflict didn’t seem to bother me much. Now it would probably keep me up at night. (Full confession: I may have fibbed on several occasions about completing the required number of books to get my free single-topping personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut through the Book It program. I don’t think they intended for me to just start 100 books. Phew! I feel better getting that off my chest!)
The exception to my tendency to leave most books started but unfinished came in the form of the school summer reading list. All through my years at school, we had to pick books from the paper our teachers sent home at the end of the year. I saw this as an assignment and not pleasure reading, so I pushed myself to finish.
I can vividly remember stretching out on the swing on our back porch as I read Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None from the 8th grade summer reading list. I was raised on PBS Masterpiece Theater, so I already loved a good mystery, which is why I was frantically swinging back and forth and getting so nauseous from motion sickness and probably a little over-heated, but I just couldn’t stop reading. I was totally engrossed in the story and desperate to find out who the killer was. When my family finally called me in for supper, I stood up and immediately ran to the bathroom where I stayed for a few hours until I could successfully keep down some Saltine crackers before going to bed.
It wasn’t until I was out of school that I really found my love of books. Like it so often happens with people who have a stubborn streak, I realized I actually liked reading when no one was standing over me and telling me I had to do it. Right after the birth of my twin daughters, I found that I had so many hours in a day when I was stationary, stuck in our TV-free bedroom with nothing to do but feed my tiny babies. This was the moment when reading became my favorite. I worked my way through all of The Lord of the Rings books and every Jane Austen novel. I read Jan Karon books borrowed from my mother-in-law and any historical fiction novels I could get from the library. I stayed completely entertained.
This is the magical power of books for those fortunate enough to find it. When an author makes us care or cry, laugh or loathe, wonder or wish for more, we can come away changed, transported to a new place with new (possibly fictional) best friends. That’s why one of the best compliments for an author is “I just never wanted this book to end.”