Recently I got the wonderful opportunity to read I’d Rather Be Reading, a lovely collection of essays by the wonderful Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs Darcy, as I’m part of the launch team. As a longtime book lover each part resonated with me in a different way- but I particularly enjoyed reflecting on the readers I’ve been over the years, inspired by Anne’s essay on the same.
I am still the tiny tot who wanted to learn to read, who sat on her grandpa’s knee while he told make believe stories of tiny fairies drinking from acorn cups, who opened her notebook from Father Christmas to write her first story which had the original title of ‘A Fairy Story.’
I’m still the school girl who stealthily hid books in her drawer beneath her desk at school so she could pull it out, just a bit, and try to read it without discovery, along with the other bookworms on my table. It didn’t last long before discovery.
I’m still the twelve year old who read a book in the car, read the same book while walking down the pavement on the way to church, too late under the covers, whenever there was a moment. Who left the library every time with a bag, weighty with the maximum number of books you were allowed take out, and read them all. Who debated which books to take on a two week holiday, which ones for the car journey and which (enormous anthology of Narnia books) to leave in the caravan along with the other books, notepads and letter writing paper.
I’m still the fourteen year old who felt English literature had ruined books by picking them apart too much, dissecting them so their magic was gone. Who was perplexed by the way the grown up, fiction side of the library didn’t categorise in any way. How was she to know which books were good, or worth reading, when she was looking at every type of fiction possible and recognised none of the names?
I’m still the fifteen year old who was captivated by Wuthering Heights for the first time, overcoming the language and becoming enraptured by the classics, Austen and reading them all at once. Somehow this brought her to fall in love with literature to the extent where a few years later she found herself in the A level course and applying to study it at university.
I am still the newly wed eighteen year old who carefully organised the bookshelves in her first ‘grown up home’, and living in a new place immediately sought out the library in York spent large amounts of time there. Who tried her best to get through the summer reading list for university but never quite made it through the Illiad or Beowulf.
I am still the twenty one year old new mother who, sleep deprived and constantly breast-feeding always had her new kindle within reach and remembered what reading for pleasure, not university, felt like. Who later, with the second baby, sat with baby asleep on her chest, reading to prepare for seminars, loving Woolf and Atwood despite the sleep deprivation.
I am still the graduate, back knee deep in the stay at home life who wanted to get back to the books she loved but found herself thinking that only ‘useful’, practical non fiction books were a justifiable, worthwhile use of her already stretched time. Thankfully she finally realised all the joy had been crowded out and eased herself back into reading for pleasure with lovely children’s classics like Peter Pan and re reads of long time favourites Anne of Green Gables and the Secret Garden.
I am still the twenty six year old, reading the Wizard of Oz and Peter Pan aloud partly because she wanted her children to love it as much as she did and partly to maximise her own reading time amongst the craziness of bedtimes.
Every stage has added another depth, layer to my reading identity, each story and book encountered shifted or clarified or broadened my perspective of life, the world, taught me something new of life in another place, time, the limitless nature of our wonderful imagination. They have shown me their ability to connect with people, fictional, real, their tales, their growth and their learning and to share on again, to connect with someone who also connected with those words.
If you love reading you absolutely must get your hands on a copy of I’d Rather Be Reading– Anne Bogel’s lovely collection of essays about the reading life. I got to read an advance reader copy and it was just so good. It’s not out officially in the UK yet- but you can preorder and be the first to get it (which also means that bookshops know how many to order and all that kind of thing!)