Friday, October 22, 2010

Books That Inspired You To Read

The past couple of days, I've been trying thinking about some of the first books I ever read (or in some cases, were read to me). That train of thought turned into another thought: what books or experiences with books inspired me to start reading?

These thoughts came back to mind yesterday when I was talking to my chiropractor and he told me how he never enjoyed reading. He had to do so much reading for school that it just wasn't an activity he wanted to do in his spare time. It wasn't until his wife gave him a copy of The Firm by John Grisham that he truly had the desire to read.

It got me thinking. My mother, on the occasion, noted that certain books fit certain people, and each person individually has to find the right book for them. (I, being the nerd that I am and being very Harry Potter oriented as of late, immediately thought back to that moment in The Sorcerer's Stone where Harry goes to buy his wand. "The wand chooses the wizard." Okay, enough of this side note....for now.)

I certainly belief there's truth to that. Every child has a different reading style, and it doesn't always take the same steps for each child to start reading (let alone enjoy the process). I was also reminded of a YA fiction class I took a while back where we discussed how sometimes children are given certain material too early, and therefore their thirst for reading could be in danger of being quenched permanently! I realize that's a bit dramatic, but in some cases I'm sure it's true. You may recall in an earlier post how I mentioned my experience with J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit. Here's a brief summary: my middle school language arts teacher urged me to read the book. I did. Absolutely hated it. Thought it was long, boring, no point, dry humor, that sort of thing. Read it again. Liked it a little better. Read it again. Realized it was brilliant. Today it is one of my favorite books ever!

I had a similar experience with Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. That same LA teacher that encouraged me to read The Hobbit told me I should read Austen's classic novel. Her language was very difficult for me to understand. I remember going pages and pages without a clear idea of what was happening. I also remember thinking, "Oh that's rather convenient! There's that Mr. Darcy...AGAIN! I mean really... This sort of thing would never happen." (Said the girl who read strictly fantasy if she could get her hands on it.) I read it again about a year ago, and I absolutely loved it. The humor. The tension. The strong female protagonist. Brilliant. Once again, it has become one of my favorite books.

From these experiences, I learned that sometimes I need to give books second chances. There are exceptions. For example (no offense to anyone who loves this book) I didn't care for Blood and Chocolate. For those of you who don't know the story, it's sort of a teen werewolf romance novel. They even made a movie off it in case you're too lazy to read the book. I would actually recommend both so you can see the differences, but that's branching off into another topic that I'll save for later. For me, I just didn't feel a connection with the characters, and I'm still not sure I'm happy with the way it ended. It was kind of sweet, but also kind of weird. But you don't have to take my word for it. The point is, that book just wasn't one for me (it wasn't the perfect wand!), but it can most definitely be the right book for someone else.

So, I want to know what first got all of you into reading. Here's a little of what's been going through my mind the last few days as I've considered my first experiences with the written word.

My dad isn't much of a reader. He'd much rather watch the movie and call it good. (I always get a kick out of the fact that as we are watching movies based on books, he'll sometimes turn to me and ask, "Was it like that in the book?" or "Did the book give more information?" or something along those lines.) Mom, on the other hand, loves to read. Her genre of choice is mystery, a genre I appreciate simply because a good portion of the TV shows I watch are crime based, but I've never really gotten into reading that genre. So, if the love of reading were genetic, that love would come from my mom.

My first memory of reading a book outside of school involved Dr. Suess' The Cat In The Hat. I distinctly remember sitting on my grandfather's knee and struggling to remember what all those letters on the page sounded like. I would read, and he would help as I needed it. I still have yet to add any Dr. Suess books to my shelf, but believe me, it will happen someday.

I remember other children's books from school: Pink and Say, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, My Father's Dragon and the like. Good found memories. But these weren't books that came to my head right away.

Two books that did come to mind right after The Cat in the Hat were Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls and A Wrinkle In Time by Madeliene L'Engle. I can never remember if my first encounter with Where the Red Fern Grows was in second or third grade as I had the same teacher both years. Part of me really wants to attribute my love for reading to her simply because of all the stories I was introduced to and still love because of her. (Thank you!) She read Where the Red Fern Grows to us and it was probably one of the first books I re-read once I found the incentive to go out and find my own books. It was also probably one of the first books I ordered from one of those book orders after she read it to us. For some reason, that memory is very fond to me. If you haven't had the chance to read that book, you should.

When I was in fifth grade, I was of the opinion that although my teacher was a very nice man, he wasn't cut out to teach fifth graders. Ouch. I apologize. But I was only ten and eleven at the time. What did I know really? Well, I knew how to get away with reading a book under my desk instead of actually listening to the teacher. That's how I spent a portion of my fifth grade education. I was becoming so in love with books that I couldn't stop to take time to listen to my teacher! I had to finish the story. A Wrinkle in Time is one of the books I remember doing this with. I believe it was recommended to me by the same friend who got me hooked on Harry Potter in middle school. (Speaking of middle school, I feel it's only right to also thank the teacher who made me read The Hobbit and Pride and Prejudice and encourage me to take Honors English in high school no less! Thank you!)

I really think what it comes down to is a love of story itself. Even young children love a good story. Before I was even gobbling up books as fast as I could get my hands on them, my grandpa used to tell me and my siblings his very own Winnie the Pooh stories before we went to bed. Sometimes he would start telling the story in Spanish. We would all whine, "Grandpa!" He'd laugh and then continue the story in English. Grandpa has always been quite the kidder.

So I suppose there are multiple things that eventually pushed me into my love for reading: great teachers, family, friends, love of story itself, the whole shabang! It's because of all of those people that I have an overstuffed bookshelf quite contently sitting in the corner of my room. Thanks you guys. The books and myself really appreciate it!

Now tell me what it was that first got you into reading? You can leave it in a comment, or, if your story is long as mine turned out to be, you can send me an e-mail. Maybe I'll even feature some of your stories in coming posts, eh? How's that sound? In either case, I loved to hear from you.

Happy Friday!

1 comment:

  1. You might like Book Drum’s illustrated profile of Pride and Prejudice, which incorporates maps, music, video, pictures and background information to bring the book alive for modern readers. Or try Tess:

    Tess of the D’Urbervilles on Book Drum