Monday, April 17, 2017

My Favorite Books

I saw this quote by Judy Blume recently and it struck me...that one of the greatest gifts my parents ever gave me was a love of books.

Growing up I classified myself a middle class, but looking back we were probably more like lower-middle class. Not that that matters, really. We had plenty of food to eat, clothes to wear and a home to live in. My siblings and I argued, our parents argued. It was a normal upbringing. I have favorite memories with each of my siblings, but my most vibrant memories are of sitting in our parlor (we lived in an old Victorian house in the country) in an over-stuffed chair with a velveteen finish. Legs slung over one arm, back resting against the other and a book in my hand.

The books changed over the years. One of the first books I remember reading alone is In a People House. I graduated from single-sentence books fairly quickly and moved on to chapter books like Ramona Quimby, Age 8 or Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. I loved those books. I liked the adventures that kids were having and I couldn't help wondering if I would have more adventures if we lived in a huge city like New York or Chicago instead of our small town in Missouri.

Because my brother was reading it, I decided to try out The Chronicles of Narnia when I was about 9. I hated it. I didn't understand a lot of what the books were about (I got the adventure, but the sub-text was lost on me), but I diligently sat in my reading chair and struggled through books 1-3 before giving up. I would take aim at them later on and love them. Still do.

And then, around age 10, I discovered Dear Mr. Henshaw. Oh, how I loved that book. I think I checked it out of the school library about six times when I was in 4th grade. It was (also) a little above my reading level, but I didn't care. I liked how this boy would write to his favorite author and his favorite author would (sometimes) write back.

I wondered if I should write to my favorite author, which brought on about a week of debating the merits of Beverly Cleary vs. Judy Blume. In the end I decided I couldn't choose and I wrote two incredibly over the top letters to both of the authors about how they'd changed my life. At the age of 9. I'm positive they were impressed with my devotion to them and my wielding of the literary pen.

I've tried out every genre since those childhood days in my favorite chair and I can say that I love them all. But romance is the genre of my choice, both as a reader and as a writer and I think those early reading days are part of the reason. Because whether I was reading about a kid who hated his younger brother or living through the trials of school bullying, I was also finding a happy ending. Not always the love-kisses-sex happy endings of romance novels, but a sense of completion and acceptance that I equate with happiness.

And I'm also grateful to my parents who put limits on how much television we watched (of course, we found ways around their rules) and encouraged us to adventure through books...

Did you have a favorite author/book as a child?