This weekend, we went to a bookstore and I chose two books. It was difficult because when I go into a bookstore, I want about 50% of the books in it. I chose the two books for two different reasons, but I chose them both for basically the same reason. I love to read and I wanted to do some concentrated reading this weekend.
My mom fostered a reading spirit in all her children, but for me it was more of a calling. When I discovered that I could read, I read everything I could get my hands on. I recall once picking up a book of my mom’s that was supposed to be full of scary stories. I started at page one and read all the way through to the back cover. Unfortunately for me, I was too young to realize that the first page of a book wasn’t necessarily the starting point. So I read the title page, the copyright page, the credits pages, the table of contents, and the introduction even though none of those things made any sense to me. It seemed to take for-flippin’-ever to get to the good stuff, the scary stories. But I got there, and I enjoyed all of them.
I remember we started learning to read in kindergarten. At some point, the teacher took us to the library and we all checked out the same book, The Three Little Pigs. I loved the library. I read through my book quickly and read it again, just as quickly. By the time I had to give it back, I had read it so many times that I had memorized it. I can still see some of the pictures when I close my eyes. The following week, the teacher took us back to the library. Most of the class had to check out the same book. Two other kids and I were allowed to select our own book because we had done so well reading the first book. I chose a book I knew and trusted, knowing that I was going to enjoy it. I chose The Three Little Pigs.
Looking back, I now can see that I was setting the tone for my reading habits for the rest of my life. I choose books that I think I’m going to like. If I like them, I will read them so many times that I have them committed to memory. And I will always choose a book I trust.
So this weekend, I chose two books. The first book I chose was called The Pope Who Quit: A True Medieval Tale of Mystery, Death, and Salvation by Jon M. Sweeny. With a title like that how could it fail? I chose it because I like history; I like mystery; I like the Middle Ages; and I like intrigue. I read the back cover, the introduction, and the first couple of paragraphs. I liked the writer’s style, and I’m hopeful that he will continue. I’m hoping that I chose one that I will go back to many times.
The second book I selected was one that I have memorized in its entirety. It’s probably my favorite book, although there are literally dozens that could qualify for that title. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith is about a young girl growing up in the slums of New York City just before World War I. It’s a unique blend of narrative, story-telling, and poetry. The main character is so much like me that it was like the author was writing my life (if I’d been a young girl growing up in the slums of New York City just before World War I.)
Books, and the characters in them, are some of my best friends. I go back to them because they’re familiar and because I like them. It’s difficult for me to like a book if I don’t like the protagonist. I can go visit these people, become part of their world for a while, and feel like I’ve been on a vacation trip without ever leaving the house. It’s a wonderful feeling.
Some of my friends have been puzzled and asked, “Why read it again? You know how it’s going to turn out.”
I usually reply, “Maybe this time, something different will happen.”