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