Books have always been like food in my family. My grandmother read voraciously (probably the only time one could use that word to describe her) and wrote her own poetry, journal articles, and even two books that were historical and political accounts of her family’s experience with the genocide and the next generation of the Armenian diaspora.
My aunts read and wrote, as well. There were books in Armenian, Spanish and English in their houses. Books and magazines were piled in corners, shoved in cabinets, and hidden in closets.
My parents had books everywhere in our house, too. Bookshelves lined almost every room. Mom’s mystery novels and magazines were piled haphazardly next to and on the nightstand. Dad’s history tomes were tossed with their spines broken next to his favorite green easy chair in the living room and on the magazine rack in his bathroom. Bookcases lined my sister’s and my walls, with paperbacks of Sweet Valley High, the Babysitters Club, Nancy Drew (and the 90s inspired Nancy Drew Files), Shel Silverstein, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Dr. Seuss, the Disney Encyclopedias.
And there was never any shortage of new books to be had. The most exciting day when I was really little was when the bookmobile made its rounds of our neighborhood. I got to hop onto a little bus and check out a book of my choosing. Then the library became available to me. The library is still one of the most wondrous places on earth. The cool quiet of it, with the whisper of pages opening and closing. The musty smell of old leather and paper. The quiet hum of people breathing together while they wrap themselves in a story. I love it so much it literally makes my chest ache.
I never met a book I didn’t appreciate. Even the crap ones. I read them all. I went through a horse phase and read not only Black Beauty and Misty of Chincoteague, I even read archeological nonfiction on the evolution of the horse. (Insert comment about my nerdiness here) As I got older I was obsessed with the horror genre, Dean Koontz and Stephen King, but also Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Then I grew out of those and became focused on stories from around the globe, biographies and cultural and historical fiction describing the lives of people from far off places. Now, my kindle is a mishmash of everything from Tina Fey’s Bossypants to Daniel Goleman’s Focus.
When I was young, my parents, sister or cousins would be calling to me, and then would find me curled up in my room in a corner, so enrapt in my book that I literally didn’t hear them yelling my name. I still get lost in my books, maybe not to the extent that my dear hubby has to scream my name to snap me out of my trance, but I still find myself looking up in a bit of confusion when I resurface from a particularly fascinating read. Whether it’s an article in Rolling Stone or a chapter from Game of Thrones or a novel about the Hmong diaspora in the U.S., I tend to sink into the story to its deepest depths.
When I visit someone’s house, the first thing I am drawn to is their bookshelf. I want to know what they’re reading. I want to see if there’s something of interest to me that I haven’t read. My fingers itch to pick up one of their books and lose myself in it right there in the middle of the room.
I realize that I’m carrying this into the next generation, stuffing my daughter’s nursery and play areas with books. We read together every night. When she’s playing, she tends to grab a book and start leafing through it, pointing out the words and pictures she knows. I wonder if one day I will find her curled up in a corner of her room, deaf to my cries because she is so enrapt in her book.
I hope so.