I was just browsing my Facebook News Feed when I came across a link to a post called My Reading History by Jamie @ Perpetual Page Turner. In it she describes in lovely writing and even lovelier images the history of her reading over the years – from child, through teen and college all the way to today. She inspired me to write one of my own posts, although without the wonderful graphics because I am hopeless at creating things using a computer. I’ll just stick to words – hope you guys don’t mind. Actually, I’m sure you guys won’t mind because trust me; images will make this a lot more messy.
I guess I should begin from… the beginning? Wow, how surprising. So, I’ve loved reading since I can remember myself. In fact, in 2nd grade I was already reading proper books. I was one of few 2nd graders in my class, maybe even the only one, who’d reached the stage where they move on from picture books. I didn’t like this difference and I insisted on reading picture books even though they were below my level. Eventually Ms. Golden, my 2nd grade teacher, told my mom she refused to allow me to read picture books when I could be reading proper writing and that’s when my love story with picture books ended. It was in 2nd grade that I first read a Roald Dahl book – George’s Marvelous Medicine – and fell in love with rhyming poetry in the form of Jack Preluztky. I specifically say “rhyming” because I was convinced that any poem that didn’t rhyme wasn’t really a poem at all and that it was just stupid. On the first day of 2nd grade my teacher gave every kid a small book of poems by many different poets. I still have the book, along with a decent collection of Jack Preluztky books.
In 3rd grade I discovered Harry Potter, which of course took over the rest of my life. I read all six in record time, the books breaking my tiny eight year back; the seventh came out only a year and a half later. My friend and I printed Potter related things, wrote Potter poems, practiced spells, drew characters and basically just had our own fan club without knowing that’s what we were doing. I still have two letters I wrote – one to Harry himself and the other to JK Rowling – somewhere in my room. As you can probably tell, I don’t throw stuff out. Like, ever. I also read all twelve A Series of Unfortunate Events books that had been released till that point. Funnily enough, I ended up ordering The End off Amazon and only making it halfway through. I also remember reading The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin – a book I later read one or two more times and yet still do not remember even now what happens in the end.
My entire reading history can be summed up into one word – whatever. That’s it. I read whatever I found, without considering the genre or age it was meant for. It’s how I ended up being asked by a teacher in 4th grade why I was reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time and why I to this day am still unsure of the definition of children and young adult literature. I simply never went by definitions. I read everything and anything. I do remember despising non-fiction books, the only exceptions being the non-fiction companions to the Magic Tree House series books.
Between fourth and fifth grade I moved back to Tel Aviv and ended up reading the last Harry Potter book in my first summer back here without my own proper room or friends – specifically my best friend who I’d read the entire series with.
I’ve never had a lull in my reading. I mean, nowadays I read less but that’s because I have so much more to do and so much less time to do it, and that’s even though I sleep way too little – as my mother never tires of reminding me. I also haven’t really gone through any “periods.” I’ve always read anything. I do admit that when I was younger I preferred longer and bigger books because I hated that feeling of finishing a series and not having anything more to share with those characters, contrary to today when I prefer shorter books that don’t make me feel tiny and discouraged.
I have so many great memories associated with reading. There was that time I was visiting my grandparents in Israel back when I still lived in New York and when I was bored one day they gave me a box full of children’s books, namely The Babysitter’s Club books by Ann M. Martin. I was probably around eight years old at the time, and I decided I’d read all of the books in the series in chronological order. I reached the eighth book and that’s when I came across the book numbered 108. Needless to say, I gave up that plan.
Another story – one I’ve mentioned here before – is the time I got left behind on a 3rd grade trip because I spent too much time in the library and the class left without me. I ended up riding a taxi to the theatre with the meanest, scariest teacher in the school and the copy of A Wrinkle in Time that I’d finally chosen before I’d discovered my class’s disappearance and all hell broke loose inside eight year old me. (Wow, lots of stuff happened to me when I was eight.) After the teacher’s incessant apologizes to my mom over the phone we sat together and complained about the play we were supposed to be watching the entire time.
I don’t remember anything about the book The Wind in the Willows, except for the fact that I hated it. It was the first book my mother chose to read to my sister and me when we decided to start a bed-time story ritual in the winter of 2006. I remember how one night, after reading, or maybe instead, my mother told us we were going to be moving back to Israel the next summer.
My obsession with Jodi Picoult I established after reading her book The Pact. The interesting part of this is that I picked up The Pact after recognizing Picoult’s name since I’d read My Sister’s Keeper. I found it on a random rack of not-yet-shelved books in the library I absolutely hate and have been to very few times – an even number because I had to return the books of course. This is the only good thing I ever got from that place. Ever.
In 2012 I read John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars and then visited the places he mentioned in it when I visited Amsterdam in the summer. Somewhere in my massive Sent folder I still have the email I wrote to fictional Hazel and Augustus while riding the train from Holland to Germany.
Oh, and at some point during my younger years I developed an unexplained hate for Narnia and all things related which explains my Narnia-less childhood.
My reading history is basically just a big mess littered with thousands of memories. These days I’m pickier and I tend to avoid huge commitments – it’s why I’m still putting off Game of Thrones.
I’ve also always had this… fear of classics. It’s the same feeling I have regarding cult films – I’m always worried I won’t get what they hype is all about and then end up just feeling stupid because I haven’t experienced a revelation or epiphany of some sort after reading said book. Or worse, I won’t even like it.
So, yeah, this is it basically. My “reading history.” Well, actually, it’s more like a bunch of memories that cover it, but maybe that’s just the same thing. I mean, I could go on listing books forever but I find that highly uninteresting not to mention pointless. Sure, I’ve had my fair share of Judy Blumes and Roald Dahls and so many other books but in the end it’s the memories that make up my history, so I think presenting them is much better than just listing. The Wayside School tapes we listened to in the car, the spell practicing with Potter and my friend, the poetry obsessions – those are what matters. I still read young adult literature these days, along with what you’d categorize as “adult novels.” I don’t know if I’ve ever had a certain taste – I just went along with what I found. If it looks good, I’ll read it.
I intended on one day making a post about the memories we associate with books and how the books I read can tell the story of who I am but maybe this is it. It’s just… my history. Or maybe I will end up writing another post and you guys will recognize stories I mention there because they probably appear in other posts of mine as well. Who knows? We’ll see.
What do you guys think? Is our reading history just an assortment of books or does it mean more about us? Have you had periods in your life where reading just wasn’t a top priority anymore? Or maybe it only became important later on in life?