I’ve always been a reader

I’ve always been a reader. And although writing and self-publishing have taken over much of my leisure time in recent years, there have been far more hours spent with the work of another author clutched gingerly within my hands.

Gone with the Wind, 75th Anniversary EditionIn my teen years, I became desperate for anything to read as I sought knowledge, exploration, and discovery of that which existed beyond my young life on a farm. Newspapers and library books were the obvious standby. However, my go-to reads soon became the worn mass-market paperbacks and magazines traded amongst my mother and aunts. I don’t recall many titles. They were the non-descript, popular items of the time and I used them to fill my long hours. But, there will always be a certain book that cannot be forgotten. Gone with the Wind (Margaret Mitchell) essentially changed my reading experience. This book covered an imperfect, yet alluring life I never knew existed. People before me had actually loved and hated, struggled and succeeded. They made bad choices and harbored regrets. And somehow, miraculously, they moved on. Survived. From that point on, I would search for books which not only told a magnificent story, but chronicled the growing pains of our historical experience. I was 12. I no longer accepted fluff. I demanded substance. And I wanted to write like that…

The Stranger Beside MeMy twenties were a blur, consumed with new jobs, falling in love, marriage, a first home, moves, and perhaps more importantly, socializing. I was busy and lent little time for books. But of course, I managed to fit a few in here and there. One title stands out for the mere fact that it once again shifted my tastes toward a new genre. The Stranger Beside Me (Ann Rule) provided an entirely different form of insight. Life could be charming but cruel. It was at one moment bright and then all at once menacing, rife with ulterior motives and life-altering choices. From that point on, I would search for books which not only told a magnificent story, but chronicled the lives of real people and true experiences. I was 22. I no longer accepted make-believe. I demanded reality. And I wanted to write like that…

The Things They CarriedBy my thirties everything changed all over again. I returned to school and earned my BA in English. My husband and I made a major move out of our home state and then moved back…but with a new baby in tow. No longer content with loose ends, we wanted ties to bind us. Again, there seemed to be little room for reading and quite frankly, I was burnt out from the 1000s of pages and dozens of books that constituted “required reading” as an English Lit major. I needed a break from 15th century Old English and Shakespeare and poetry. Yet, happily and willingly, I was immersed into an entirely new world of books. More than any other, The Things They Carried (Tim O’Brien) made me realize life is rarely easy whether it be fiction or non-fiction. His story was horribly depressing, but mesmerizing. I questioned which parts were true and what was fabricated. And after a few chapters, I honestly didn’t care. I wished it would have happy endings though I knew it probably wouldn’t. I  read on because it was terrifying and poetic. From that point on, I would search for books which not only told a magnificent story, but chronicled the psychological tragedies of historical experience and real people all while rolled into a beautifully written book. I was 32. I no longer accepted being left in the dark or bored. I demanded answers and quality. And I wanted to write like that…

As I begin another decade, I’m amazed at how my reading selection mirrors that of my past while continuing to evolve. My Kindle is loaded with books set in 17th and 18th century England and 19th century America. Trips to the library often include non-fiction and the classics. However, an entirely new group of books synch to my eReader. For though I still seek tales of people who came before me, I also look for people who are like me. Indie authors. Many non-mainstream writers tell incredible stories (be warned, many more do not). But I prefer to take a chance on books no one else has heard of rather than those on the best-seller lists. Because even after all of these years, I love books which not only tell a magnificent (and original!) story, but chronicle love, struggle, pain, hope, faith, and possibility. I want to write like that…and I do.

The books mentioned are not necessarily my all-time favorites nor are they the greatest books I’ve ever read (okay GWTW is on my Top 10). They did, however, help define my reading experience. What books are memorable for you?

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