Books have been a constant in my life. I have very clear memories of being about six years old and sitting on the floor in front of my mother's bookcase. I'd look at the different coloured spines, I'd turn the books over in my hands,smell the musty pages, and look at any pictures or photographs inside. She always had a few books piled next to her bed and the names of authors such as James Herriot, Erica Jong, Shirley Maclaine and Xavier Herbert became permanently ingrained in my mind. I even remember what some of the covers looked like...remember (if you are over 35) the first editions of Virginia Andrews' books with the striking black covers...I think we've all had a Virginia Andrews phase at some point...
Around this same time, whenever I decided I was running away from home - which wasn't too often as I recall - I would pack my little school case with an apple, a teddy and, most importantly, a book. Pretty clever looking back. Something to eat, some company, and something for us to do - even if my definition of "running away" was about ten paces from the front door.
I'm not sure if it was my grandmother or my father who started buying me volumes from "The Sesame Street Library" (published in the late 1970s).. I adored these books. I would go back to them time and time again. They became very familiar to me and there was comfort in knowing what was within the pages. At this time of my childhood, things around me weren't as stable and I believe these books, in particular, gave me something secure to hang onto. Bert and Ernie, my heroes...who knew?
When I grew older, my mother passed them on to some younger children and once those children had grown up, I tried to see if I could get them back, but they had already been passed on again. A little while ago I told my husband about these books and how wonderful they were and just before our son was born, we found a retro store through eBay that had the whole set! It was like sitting down with an old friend once they arrived. Familiar, safe and just as great now as back then :)
Through the years books became not only a form of entertainment but an escape - had a bad day, read your book...raining outside, read your book...have multiple essays and readings to do for uni, read your book instead. And reading doesn't have to be a wholly solitary process. I love talking about books. I love hearing different perspectives, different reactions, different emotions drawn out of people from words on a page. Myself and three girlfriends used to meet on a regular basis to exchange books and talk about what we had read recently....that would last about five minutes, but still....books can bring people together.
I don't own a Kindle or any kind of electronic reading device. I don't think I want one. I enjoy holding a book too much. I like the motion of turning the pages. Even if it's too heavy to read in bed, I'll find a way to prop it up somehow. I can definitely see the appeal of a Kindle though. I still speak to Kindle users :)
One of my most precious memories of becoming a new mum is reading to my son when he was only a few weeks old. The weather was starting to get cold and after his morning feed he would snuggle into bed next to me. I would read him something completely age inappropriate - whatever novel I was reading at the time - but I liked the fact that he could see a book and hear my voice. He'd start to settle in and get quite still, his little grunts and yawns would become few, his little eyelids would get heavy and he'd drift off to sleep. Sometimes he'd last a whole page :)
I had started to wonder if my boy would develop an interest in books. He is fourteen months old now and we had made a conscious effort to read to him on a regular basis. His books had been placed somewhere where he could easily destroy...ahh... read them if he wanted to, but he just didn't seem too keen. I'd often give him a book to look at whilst changing his nappy. He'd have a bit of a look, see what he needed to and then hurl it at me, ninja star style......until about a week ago. I'm not sure what happened. Perhaps my mother, may she rest in peace, paid him a little visit...you know what they say about children and the spirit world. Now he spends a good part of his day taking almost every book out of the bookshelf. I sit on the floor with him and he climbs into my lap and we read....the same book sometimes 4 times in a row....every hour....but really I couldn't be more thrilled. He hadn't been the cuddliest of boys either. Capturing him long enough for a hug was a rarity, being the recipient of one of his lovely open mouthed drool kisses even more so. But not anymore. I'm quite sure if it were one of Bowlby's cloth monkey mamas reading to him, he'd be just as affectionate but it's all come from the enjoyment he gets from looking at and listening to stories. How wonderful!
Right now he's over at Nanna's house for a few hours. Before we left I packed his lunch, some toys and at least two books. Some habits die hard :)
What are you reading at the moment?