My father knows twenty three languages, not including various baby dialects. My father has two first names and two last names and three more in the middle. And a hyphen. My father is a hyphenated guy. My father is the one billion and sixth tallest man in the world. My father gave birth to himself. My father was a published poet at the age of twelve, and wrote his first biography at nineteen. The sequel, Plus One Year, made him the first twenty year old bestselling author. My father has read Artamène ou le Grand Cyrus, the longest novel in the world. And at the point he didn’t even know French. My father made it around the world in eighty days. By foot. My father’s brain is faster than my calculator. My father’s cursive is legible. My father never burns his toast. My father knows when the avocado is ripe. My father can build a card house in the wind. My father can take money out of a piggy bank without breaking it. My father’s teeth are whiter than my wall. My father has a black belt in all forms of martial arts. My father is a professional dancer. On ice and underwater. My father is best friends with the prime minister of Israel. My father is best friends with the president of Palestine. My father has managed to keep this a secret from both of them. My father never finds himself stuck without a bookmark. My mother says my father is an expert at lying. My father says he’s actually just a very good story-teller.
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?
We’ll all begin by introducing ourselves, says the brown-haired-average-height-has-at-least-two kids-and-a-real-estate-agent-of-a-husband-both-of-them-nearing -midlife-crisis group counselor.
Dr. John Smith, Cardiac Surgeon, states the blue eyed blond haired man to her left, followed by redheaded Professor Mary Thompson, Historian who is sitting on crew cut Sergeant Bill Miller, Ex-Marine’s right who has his chair slightly turned to his skinny-as-a-stick wife Madame Angelique Dupont-Miller, World-Famous Baker who just smiled at dressed for a funeral Judge Claire Gessler, New York Supreme Court.
Jess, citizen of Planet Earth.
How about each one of us tells the rest of the group something about themselves, the counselor continues.
Been married for thirty years, with two lovely children. I’m currently just in the middle of a new research project, which has unfortunately coincided with the new house my wife and I are planning for construction in the summer, says the blonde, slipping his hand through his over gelled hair before quickly trying to smooth it down again. Just began writing my third book about my travels in Africa along with a team of archeologists. It’ll be published alongside a documentary film that follows my month long trip, the Professor announces, her red curls bouncing up and down as she speaks. I’ve finished my active duty and we’ve just adopted three year old twins from Japan. Hopefully, the big contract we’re trying to sign on the bakery will be finalized in June, sending us all on our way to London for a three year stay, the couple describes, cutting into one another’s words and finishing each other’s sentences. After finishing law school I went on to work as a criminal lawyer, starting with minors and young offenders. Promotions led me away from that area to more high profile cases and today I work with the leading court in the state of New York. I have three kids, all high school graduates, two in the army and one studying abroad, says the daunting judge, sounding more like she’s giving a speech to a courtroom than talking to a support group.
I have five cats and one dog. I spend most of my time writing spoken word poetry and trying to remember to get milk so that I can make my morning chocolate milk and survive the rest of the day. I own 543 CDs, a type-writer and all 46 Dr. Seuss Special Collector’s Edition books with a personal dedication and autograph. My favorite food is pizza.
Who would like to begin with sharing some of our main goals in life, asks Ms. Counselor, and then of course points to Dr. Blondie, as if he wasn’t first already.
I hope to be promoted to head of my department and hopefully receive a grant for my research, he shares, and then turns to the Prof who continues with her answer. My main goal for this year is to finish my basic plan for the book and to start meeting up with the movie producers and working on the layout of the film. We’re obviously aiming for the contract and our move to London along with our children, Crew Cut and his skeletal wife declare, yet again speaking in plural and at the same time, as if they were one person with two bodies. I’m hoping I finally get the vacation I’ve been waiting for and my husband and I can go visit our daughter in Venice. Of course I also have work goals which include completing and publishing a paper that I’ve been working on for the past two years, Colorless Claire says.
I once had a bucket list but I lost it while sky-diving, which was ironically enough the first thing on the list.
Now that we all know a bit about each other, how about we all tell the group why we’re here, the counselor says, taking on her reserved-for-important-subjects tone.
Well, the combination of research and intensive work in the hospital is very stressful and I haven’t been sleeping well lately so my wife advised I should go see a doctor, funnily enough, and he recommended I come here, Doc reveals. I, too, lead a very stressful life and my sister goes to one of these and told me I should try it out myself. The trip to Africa was very refreshing and spiritual, yet very demanding and tiring, Mary explains. Adopting two toddlers at once is the hardest job on the planet, and trust me – I was in the army, jokes the former soldier. My wife’s sister said I should try group therapy. She spent a couple of years in India and since then she’s all about healing the soul. Yes, the kids and the contract with the possible move have been making my nights a living hell. Bill’s sister recommended this sort of treatment to me. Our sisters became very close since the day they first met and I guess Amelie – Angelique’s sister, Bill intrudes to clear things up – and her incessant nagging about spirituality and India finally cracked through someone’s skull, the French toothpick says. I’m pretty sure most members of the judicial system have been to at least one of these sorts of meeting before, the Judge says, the corner of her mouth hinting at a smile but not quite reaching it, as if it’s forgotten how to. Life in court is very… tough on one’s soul, she says, embracing a quieter, more thoughtful tone – so unlike her previous short and sharp speech.
I was skateboarding down the path of life when I suddenly slammed into a tree and found myself at a dead end. I then proceeded to enter the first building I came across, which just so happened to be this one. No, wait, this was the second building. I first went to the cupcake shop just down the street.
The counselor glances at the clock hung on the wall behind her. Well, guys, I’m sorry but our time is out, she tells us, putting on an obviously rehearsed sad face, once she probably flashes at every single client, hoping to convince them she really is sorry to see him go and to make them forget how many houses they had to mortgage in order to afford the meeting in the first place.
Dr. John Smith pulls out his Smartphone and glances at the brightly lit screen. I have an appointment starting in less than an hour, he remarks. Pleasure meeting you all! The end of the sentence is left echoing down the hall is he dashes to his car downstairs. I have to go prepare my class for tomorrow, Professor Mary Thompson comments, pulling out her iPhone. She departs with a cheery farewell. Sergeant Bill Miller rolls up his sleeve to reveal a shiny silver watch fastened tightly ’round his thick wrist. He shows it to his wife who says, the girls should be returning from my mother’s soon. The two go around shaking hands with everyone who hasn’t left yet, before following in the footsteps of the Doctor and the Professor. My husband’s flight from DC should be landing soon, Judge Claire Gessler says after glancing at the face of a round gold pocket watch she pulls out on a long golden chain from her front suit pocket. She gives a short wave, one that looks just as unnatural on her as the attempted smile earlier on in the meeting. The tap of her heels lingers long past her departure.
So, the counselor says when just the two of us are left. Where are you going?