14/3/14

bookgazing: (i heart books)
theliteraryomnivore asked: ’Tell me about the first book. You know what I'm talking about. The first book that made you realize that books could blow your mind.’

I always see people talking about their ‘book of all books’ – the one that turned them on to reading and made them realise the power of stories. I can’t identify one book that did that for me, which I think that makes me a bit of an oddball in the bookish community. Sometimes I wonder if I just didn’t do childhood reading right.

I grew up encouraged to see reading like breathing – a thing you always did because it felt kind of ridiculous to contemplate not doing it. I imagine kid me being quietly flabbergasted by the idea of not reading. Teenage me may not have been that subtle about how odd she found it when people didn’t read for pleasure – she was terrible. My mum is a big reader, my dad took me to the library a lot and both my parents read to me when I was very little. One of my grandparents used to take me to Beatties book store which was a treat equivalent to the zoo to tiny me (and wow, do I still love the zoo). I was very lucky – books never had to be rationed and one thing our area does had back then was a wide range of accessible libraries.

So I don’t think I ever had that eureka moment about books. They were there and I liked stories, why wouldn’t I read all of them? I read my way through volumes and volumes of series like "The Saddle Club", "The Silver Brumby", "The Midnight Stallion", "Redwall", "The Worst Witch", "My Teacher is an Alien" and "SVU". I think I’m an example of how quantity and access can make kids into readers almost unthinkingly.

There have absolutely been books from my early and teen years which shaped me into the kind of reader I am today. I think we can solidly trace my love of fantasy back to early encounters with "Harry Potter" (published when I was exactly its target audience), "Northern Lights" and "Small Gods". Both "The Virgin Suicides" and "Broke Heart Blues" stunned me into realising that you could find intricacy and powerful emotion in lit-fic. Stephen King’s work taught me that I wanted character work and carefully detailed descriptions of ordinary town life even when said town was under siege from vampires. Books of Greek myths and Arthurian legends set me off on a life time obsession. "Dinotopia" made me wish more people would build their world in images and words. And "The Exiles" made me laugh.

That’s probably one of my strongest memories of reading actually – on my tenth re-read of McKay’s story giggling uncontrollably. Perhaps that is what made me realise that books could be pure joy.

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October 2014

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