My Reading Renaissance (& Whom to Blame)

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When I was a kid, I was a reader. No, a Reader. Capital R. I read voraciously. I started before kindergarten, reading these weird Dick and Jane ripoffs that had a little girl, a little boy, and a dog. I’m pretty sure the girl’s name was Wendy, but I can’t remember the boy or the dog.* Okay, they might not have been “ripoffs”. For all I know, they came first. I do remember other kids in kindergarten not knowing what I was talking about when I mentioned them. I was barely 5, and I was already “weird” for reading books the other kids hadn’t heard of. This trend was to continue for most of my life.

Anyway, from there, I graduated to Nancy Drew, The Dana Girls, and Encyclopedia Brown. I wanted to be a private detective and lapped up just about everything they had in the school library (except for the Hardy Boys, because boys were boring). Then I discovered sci-fi and fantasy, and it was goodbye to every moment of spare time. I was a Reader. Escaping into books was the Best Thing.

We’d go to the library as a family every month, and my mom would come home with 20-30 books. My stack was usually much smaller than that, but it grew over the years. I hoovered everything from the young adult section. We had to switch libraries a couple times because my mom and I exhausted all the interesting-looking books. (We lived in a very small town with a very small library. It was near other very small towns with very small libraries, so library-hopping was a thing.)

This behavior carried through junior high and high school, when I discovered prolific authors like Stephen King, Isaac Asimov, Anne McCaffrey, as well as authors who wrote giant tomes like Melanie Rawn and well, Stephen King. I always had a book with me. I was constantly reading between classes and at lunch. I did make a few friends based on the books I was reading. (Consuming the Silmarillion in 8th grade is a bonding experience.)

I’m sorry to say all that fun-reading started drifting away during college. I don’t think it’s an uncommon phenomenon. I had to read so much for class (most of it stuff I wasn’t interested in) that reading started feeling like work. I began watching a lot more TV in college. And TV just sorta stuck. I didn’t stop reading altogether. I still made it through a few books a year, but it wasn’t the few books a month I’d been doing. I’d love to say part of the reason for that was I got a life and my social activities took up a bunch of time, but that would be a lie.** For many years, I just vegged in front of the tube more often than I picked up a book.***

And that brings us to 2014. Last year, everything changed. I’m going to lay the blame° at the feet of three individuals: Paul Cornell, Steven Schapansky, and Jason Snell. Each of those fellows deserves thanks for my recent rediscovery of my love of reading. In my mind I think of them as the manufacturer, the facilitator, and the pusher. You’ll see why.

Paul Cornell gets a share of the blame because my lovely Verity! cohost Deb Stanish (who deserves bonus-blame) interviewed him at last year’s Gallifrey One convention. I love watching my friends do their stuff onstage, and I didn’t want to miss this! I also didn’t want to be spoiled about his book, London Falling. So I did the only thing that made sense. I read the thing. In fact, it was the very first e-book I purchased on the Nook that Deb herself handed down to me.

And you know what happened? I loved it. Not just the book (which is great, and I highly recommend if you like police procedurals or detective novels or supernatural fiction or urban fantasy or tightly-plotted stories or London), but the act of reading. I’d almost forgotten how enveloping and intoxicating it could be. So thank you, Paul.

Next up is my spouse, Steven. He’s most definitely the facilitator. For my birthday last year, he got me a shiny new Kindle Paperwhite. Not only do I enjoy the experience of reading on it, but it makes it scarily easy to get books. I have spent more money on books in the last six months than I did in the previous three years combined. Finish a book, and oh look! I can get the sequel immediately with the push of exactly one button. Don’t mind if I do!

It’s worth noting the very first e-book I purchased on my Kindle was The Severed Streets, Paul Cornell’s sequel to London Falling. Nice bit of symmetry there. Golly, I hope my Paperwhite doesn’t need replacing by the time book 3 of the Shadow Police series comes out! Seriously though, thank you Steven.

Then we have the pusher, one Jason Snell, architect of The Incomparable and Six Colors. Jason asked me to join the Incomparable family over a year ago now, and in addition to all the fantastic visual media I’ve consumed and talked about, I’ve read a substantial number of books (either directly for the podcast or as part of a cascade effect). Some are books I would have read anyway.°° Some were books I might not have even known about otherwise.°°° And some I probably wouldn’t have braved without the benefit of the podcast outlet after reading them.ˆ

Life has gotten busy, and despite the fun I had reading, I might have done a lot less if I didn’t have Jason as a little angel/devil on my shoulder whispering to me, tempting me with the double-lure of a book and a podcast about it. Like catnip, that is. How can I say no? These days, I very rarely do. So thank you Jason, for being the very best kind of pusher.

While I may not be anywhere near my previous book-consumption levels, I’m head and shoulders above where I was just a couple years ago, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

Want to know what I’m reading? Follow me on Goodreads, where I occasionally even remember to log my books!

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*Does anyone know what I’m talking about? The dog might have been Rex? The boy, Tom? I wish I could remember.

**Eventually a social life did catch up with me, but for many years it was me, cable TV, and shelves full of Doctor Who/Babylon 5 VHS tapes. Note that I’m not complaining. That’s not a bad way to spend time!

***I think the reasons for this probably deserve their own blog post at some point.

°Blame=thanks.

°°Like the re-re-read of The Stand I did for episode 210. (Apocalypse FTW!)

°°°Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant books for episode 216. (LOVED these books!)

ˆBen H. Winters’ Last Policeman series. (So good, but oh so very bleak!)

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5 thoughts on “My Reading Renaissance (& Whom to Blame)

  1. “I always had a book with me.” I was/am completely the same. I totally understand where you’re coming from and feel you on the judgement of youth. Also, The Incomparable has pushed me back into the foolish world of ‘reading series that aren’t yet done’ with The Expanse so….thanks?

  2. I’ve never liked labels, but if reading a lot of books makes you ‘weird’ than I am too. I remember buying ‘King Kong’ in 3rd grade and being criticized for buying a book ‘for adults’. I didn’t understand why that bothered my friends, except that it didn’t have any illustrations. They didn’t know the secret, that the pictures you imagine are always better than the ones someone else has drawn!

    When I was little, the library was the best place ever. I didn’t browse everything, but quickly learned where the ‘good stuff’ was (i.e. the YA section). I worked my way down the shelves, picking books that had interesting covers. I didn’t know about book reviews (and the Internet hadn’t been invented), but this method was still good enough to find L’Engle and Le Guin next to each other due to an alphabetical fluke.

    I had found ‘The Hobbit’ in the library as well, and when LOTR was featured in the Scholastic book club flyer I recognized the author. I was eager for more, but had *no idea* what I was getting. The books were much more challenging to read, but what really fascinated me was all the detail in the appendices. This was my first experience with what ‘backstory’ could be like, and I’ve been digging into it ever since.

    I decided book clubs were a good thing too, and so I signed up for the SFBC. They had several omnibus editions in the signup flyer, including one by McCaffrey. I had found ‘Dragonsong’ and ‘Dragonsinger’ in the library, and here were ~800 pages of new Pern stories, including a ton of Tolkien-esque backstory! I found Cherryh through the SFBC as well, starting with the omnibus ‘Book of Morgaine’. Big books full of fantasy was definitely my thing.

    Like you, with college I lost touch with fiction too. It wasn’t so much that I was forced to read stuff I didn’t care as much about, but there was just so very much of it to read for classes. It was completely voluntary though, and I ended up with two majors plus an additional minor for my trouble. It wasn’t until I was in graduate school that I started reading again, mostly thanks to my extra-large checkout quota ;) As soon as I discovered I could check out literature with the same privileges as scholarly work in my discipline, I was off to the main library building to raid the SF shelves.

    Today things are so much easier. Lots of people remember Steve Jobs as a ‘visionary’, but what I remember is his claim that, ‘People don’t read anymore.’ Thank goodness Amazon finally pushed eBooks into the mainstream. They were the first company to realize that a button for ‘more books!’ is *exactly* what people wanted. Nowadays we can even talk to the authors online! I always liked seeing photos on the dust jacket to reassure me that the books I loved were written by real people, but with Twitter I have no doubts whatsoever.

    Also, congratulations on your new essay in ‘Companion Piece’! I guess that makes you one of the authors I can now talk to online :) Of course I love podcasts too, especially ‘Verity!’ Keep up the good work, and I’ll be more-or-less patiently waiting for next Wednesday to roll around.

  3. bsdonovan says:

    I entered my own reading renaissance recently, too. Books fell off the radar in response to intense work pressure. TV was easier. I just needed some me time to space out. Then two years ago I cut back on work – which was not easy, no easy fix here – and realized i hadnt read a novel in years. Im so much happier now.

    Glad to find like minded folks.

  4. […] ← My Reading Renaissance (& Whom to Blame) […]

  5. […] **I’ve written about the Shadow Police series before. […]

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