I honestly can’t remember the moment in which I first fell in love with books. But, I do know that for as long as I can remember, they have been a part of my world; many times the best part. When I was young I read, or had read to me, the obligatory children’s books. My favorites were always the Little Monster books by Mercer Mayer (which I think are called the Little Critter books now).
And then when I was six, my dad read the Hobbit to me as my bedtime story, a few pages before bed on the nights he didn’t have class. I remember he wanted to do all the voices for the characters and I just kept telling him to “read it right!” I was a willful child. But, the memory of having that book read to me stuck with me, and I know that in some part it fueled my desire to keep reading.
The first book that I remember reading that had a significant impact on me was Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I think I was in third grade the first time I read it and to this day it is still one of my favorite books. I read it probably every other year. And getting to visit Concord, MA and actually walk through Orchard House was like a pilgrimage for me. There was just something about getting to see inside the lives of these four girls (and their family) that drew me in. They all had such different personalities, yet they complimented each other well and loved each other no matter what; even when Amy threw Jo’s manuscript in the fire out of spite.
Another book I fell in love with at an early age was To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. When I was growing up my dad had bookshelves full of everything from science fiction to historical fiction to murder mysteries. I used to spend hours looking at the books and the covers, fascinated by them. It was this hobby that led me to certain books earlier than might be the norm, and To Kill a Mockingbird was one of those. (On a related note, the movie is also one of my favorites – if you haven’t seen it, go watch it.) One of the aspects that drew me into this book was the setting. A large portion of my family is from, and still lives in, the South. So, when Scout described certain feelings or customs I knew what she meant. The deference paid to those considered ‘elders’ is more prominent in the South. And those lazy summer days where you can’t possible do anything in the heat and humidity, I had experienced those, too. So to me, it was like reading about a place I had spent time almost every summer for as long as I could remember.
I also read less literary, I guess would be the term, books growing up. I devoured Nancy Drew mysteries (both the original and the new series) along with the Babysitter’s Club books and horror stories by R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike.
I was a voracious reader all through high school, and college, and I still am today. There is just a kind of joy when you immerse yourself in a book and forget everything that is going on around you. My poor husband as endured many evenings where the only response he can get out of me is uh-huh or what? Really, he should know better by now than to talk to me when I’m reading. :)
I think this love of books from a young age and throughout my ‘growing up’ years is one of the reasons I am so drawn to writing YA. I loved a good book and I couldn’t wait for the next one in a series to come out, I spent so much of my allowance on books I didn’t have money for much else. (Still true today, by the way.) I want to give young adults a good book to read, I want to give them something to anticipate that brings them happiness, and I want to encourage them to be readers for the rest of their life. Sure, you read in school because you have to. But, to me, there is no greater joy than finding a book you love not because you had to read it, but because you chose it out of the millions of options available. This is why I write. I hope that one day, a young girl (or boy) will fall in love with one of my books and decide to become a reader for life. I think life is all the better for it.