I realize that although I’ve been at this for only a few months, I haven’t really shared too much about myself. I have an About section, of course, but that’s a very condensed version. So here’s a bit of a longer one. Not as catchy a tale as the theme song for the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, but it’ll have to do.
Since I was little, my parents read to me. In fact, before I was born they bought me books by J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. When there came a time that they couldn’t and I needed a story, I taught myself to read using books they’d read to me. As a result, I’ve been reading in some way or another since I was three years old.
My father supported my book love by buying me a lot of books and being a voracious reader in his own right. No matter where we went, we visited book stores and I would pick out books for myself and books for him. That continues today and really I consider him to be my first library patron even if I didn’t have a library and he still won’t so much as set foot in one.
My father also made up thousands of stories to help me sleep and to teach me about the fact that everything in imbued with meaning. He introduced me to tons of myths and folktales that way, which led to me doing “research” of my own and obsessing over Greek and Norse mythology as written and drawn by the D’Aulaires. I also was able to read a lot of his old books and constantly go through his shelves for new things to read. That’s how I discovered Ray Bradbury and Herman Hesse as well as Rumi, Rilke, Wila Cather and many others. So I owe a lot to my father and his stories and that book collection of his.
My mother took me to the library and got me books there. Even at an early age I managed to connect books to television shows. For example, I loved David the Gnome which was based on two Gnome non-fiction books for children by Wil Huygen. I watched anime versions of Grimm Fairy Tales and really creepy animated shorts for Oscar Wilde Fairy Tales. I read everything I could find on myths, fairies, vampires, zombies and wizards. I read biographies for just about every famous person out there. I read all the classics I could get my hands on in the children’s department and began sneaking up into the adult section so I could get Sherlock Holmes stories and books by the Brontës.
Outside of allowing this fairy tale weirdness and the occasional supernatural creature non-fiction guide, my mother, bless her heart, was determined to protect me from my over active imagination despite this being completely impossible. In order to do so she was always doing her own reader’s advisory and would let me select books reviewed by Chinaberry. This meant I learned right away how important a review was because it tended to effect whether I could get the book or not. Thanks to Chinaberry, I read way too much Astrid Lindgren, Brian Jacques, Roald Dahl, and T. A. Barron as well as spending a lot of time visiting the Moomintrolls, Miss Piggle-Wiggle, and Dr. Dolittle. My mother also ran a business selling puppets, music, and storyteller tapes which introduced me to a lot of legends, myths and fables.
Oddly enough, I presented my parents with a very unique set of problems. You see, I was one of those children that had to be forced to stop reading. You know. The ones who frequent libraries and carry around stacks of forty books while their parents give them a weary look and ask if they expect to honestly read all of those before next week’s library trip. Believe it or not, I actually got yelled at quite often for reading too much. On the trips back from bookstores, I was ordered not to read because sometimes I would finish books before we got back to the house. Sometimes I would get quizzed on what I read just because my parents didn’t think I’d actually read anything. I never could have enough books. I never could read enough books. I kept reading and reading and reading much to the chagrin of my family who had unwittingly created a monster. But books were everything to me.
Libraries were always my favorite safe place to go. Books were always my best friends from my days as a young kid reading Michael Crichton books in a pine tree outside of Montessori school to my miserable days as a teenager sneaking Anne Rice out of the school library and borrowing Laurell K. Hamilton from friends for fear of my mother finding out I was reading trashy vampire novels to being slightly older and reading Herman Hesse in the back of classrooms. The saddest times in my life were when floods in basements claimed the “lives” of my paper friends or when my mother took my Elfquest books away for fear of me being tainted by scandalous elves and their um… sexy celebrations, basically.
The trend continued when I worked in a library as an undergrad and took a ton of English courses discovering the awesomeness of Gothic novels and creating a course for myself to study Arthurian literature. I ended up getting two library cards during my half a year in Ireland a few months later. Then came the days when I hid my face in books* during short breaks as a truly miserable Starbucks employee with a BA in Creative Writing.**
Not only was I obsessed with books, but I also began reading review journals and it wasn’t long before even if I hadn’t read a book, I’d heard of it and knew what it was about. The same was true for most authors and series. I would go into bookstores and people would I think I worked there. Even after that mix-up was taken care of, I still took them over to where their book was because I knew what they wanted. I just loved books and I spent a lot of time moping in bookstores or libraries finding it painful to work in places where books were absent.
Then one day it occurred to me that although I love to write and would still like to get published someday, the greatest love of my life were books. Being a librarian may not be as exciting or fantastical a role as being the Lorax, the BFG or Gandalf the Grey, but I knew that I had basically one power and that was to love books way more than most people do. And, as Uncle Ben says, with great power*** comes great responsibility. So eventually I became a very hopeful Library Science grad student spending all of her free time in libraries and even volunteering to spend more time there.
Then I became a very unemployed Library Science graduate with a Master’s and a plethora of felt finger puppets based on Marvel superheroes, children’s books and Lovecraft elder gods that I made to stave off depression. After working children’s birthday parties like a sad clown and watching people install windows, I eventually I became a happily employed librarian, but that’s a very long story in of itself.
Now I get to occasionally put my talents to use. Outside of work, I read like a mad fiend and have to constantly remind myself to take breaks to do other things. I keep track of series for my father and suggest additional samurai novels since those are his favorite’s. I also look for books for my step-mother who loves reading. I send out e-mails to friends too suggesting books they might like. And basically I try to get people books for every occasion. I love doing that. In the future I’d love to be able to continue to connect people to awesome books both offline and online.
Only recently it became obvious to me that sharing my thoughts with like-minded people would probably be good and might keep me sane. I’m really enjoying the experience so far.
And that is why this blog is around now. I’m sure this doesn’t explain my addiction completely, but I think it is certainly a decent attempt. It’s awesome, amazing, and a little scary to think about how many books I’ve loved in my life or how books have impacted stages, phases or years of my life. So much can be summed up by the books I’ve read and the fictional friends I’ve made.
This post doesn’t even begin to touch on my love of graphic novels, manga, or the book-obsessed characters I love. I’m sure future posts will, but it doesn’t matter what a book is like on the inside. To me it never has mattered if what I’m reading is a picture book, a chapter book, a children’s book, an adult book, or a graphic novel. A good book makes the whole world bright and wonderful. A bad book makes the whole world seem horrible, ghastly, and devoid of all hope.
By the same token, a writer — dead or alive — who can give me a beautiful world or cast of characters, is a friend forever. A writer who can’t is the enemy for life. The absolute worst thing in the world is the personal betrayal I experience when a writer I like becomes a writer I loathe. Regardless, books, their authors, and their contents always manage to make me feel something, good or otherwise.
* To this day I can never think of Outlander by Diana Gabaldon without thinking of pumpkin spice lattes and shortbread cookies.
** Believe it or not, before that I worked at a mall bookstore only to end up working in their Halloween sister store then their Christmas store and finally calendar kiosk where I sat reading books. I even worked at Borders and they put me to work in their cafe. I’m not kidding. I knew everything about books, was constantly buying them with my employee discount as well as directing people to books from the cafe and they never let me leave it.
*** Even the very Mystery Men-esque gift that I possess.