Monday, November 18, 2019

Reading Through LIfe

Reading has always been a big part of my life and now that I’ve been around for more than seven decades, I’ve been thinking about how my reading life has journeyed.

I can’t remember my first book or having my mother or my father read to me.

I do remember that when I was in fourth grade my teacher Mrs. Beere (very pregnant at the time) read the class “Charlotte’s Web.” And I do remember going to my school library and having Mrs. Petersen suggest a series of orange biographies for me to read. My recollection was that they included biographies about Robert Fulton who invented the steamboat and Jane Adams a well known social worker who started Hull House, a home for poor women. I must have read ten of these biographies. When I had finished those books, Mrs. Petersen handed me a huge volume; it was the biography of Mary Todd Lincoln and it took me months to complete. This was probably my first real introduction to adversity.

Out of the classroom, I began to read stories about Betsy written by Maude Harte Lovelace and went from when Betsy was young in Betsy, Tacy and Tib to the final Betsy’s Wedding written in 1952. Most of my early reading was about living in the idyllic fifties. Ironically I never read Laura Ingalls Wilder. I did read the Sue Barton books about being a nurse and some Cherry Ames books. I have never liked mysteries and only read one Nancy Drew. And
I did love the Bobbsey Twins. 

I probably had a big lapse in reading starting in middle school and only when Grace Metalious’s Peyton Place made its sensational debut in the late fifties did I decide I wanted to take up books very seriously. That paved the way for my further reading of Danielle Steele and Judith Krantz when I was raising my children.

Occasionally I would get serious about literature and read the icons particularly American writers from the twentieth century like Saul Bellow, John Steinbeck, Philip Roth, and eventually even some women like Edith Wharton.

Through the years there’s a thread in my reading. I’ve become more confident about what I choose and to be able to identify it immediately. I’ve learned I like to mirror what society is up to. I’ve always been an idealist and hoping to make things better. For that reason, I’ve gone through periods where all I read about is the Holocaust or African Americans or Women.

Regardless, as I grow older my thirst to read is only increasing. Whether I’m being entertained or educated or made to think, there is no doubt about my love for reading.

Not too long ago a New York Times reporter, Joanne Kaufman talked about her time reading “Malt Shop Novels” and confessed that at the time she was embarrassed that she wasn’t reading more erudite literature. I definitely back up her take and enclose the link to her essay with my own take on how we don't always have to be deep readers!

Something to pass on to our kids and grandkids.