Saturday, 22 September 2012

Old Fashioned Gal

Christmas is only about 90 days away! I always have these great intentions of starting the buying early, so I don't have to roll pennies for gas money come December, but it often doesn't turn out that way. I have, however, begun making a list of gift ideas to try to get ahead of the game. For me, a book or two is definitely a part of my letter to Santa.

This year, I've been considering something new: an e-reader. I've hear from people who have these new fangled contraptions, and all are very happy with them, but I'm not totally convinced. I realize there are perks with the e-readers, such as quick access to books, as well as the ability to carry many reads with you at once. On slow shifts, having a variety of titles to choose from would be a bonus, since my reading mood is pretty touch and go. Not having to drag four books with me on a trip would be nice too. I've noticed that the screens make it look like you're reading off a real page, and there isn't the same eye fatigue as reading off a computer screen.

In fact, e-readers have done such a great job at duplicating the pages of the traditional book, that in this age of electronic everything it seems a no-brainer decision to buy one. But there are things an e-reader cannot provide that, for me, are a significant part of the reading experience.

Reading is definitely a sensual experience for me. Before you get creeped out, no, I'm not talking THAT kind of sensual! I mean the five senses (or perhaps four, I haven't started tasting my books). I really am into the aesthetics of my books. Cover choice can truly play into whether or not I pick up a book and flip through it. The plastic protective covers libraries apply to their books makes a certain sound that fills my mind with memories. I remember being a child and hearing that sound as the spine was cracked on books the librarian would read to us. There's also a feel to certain papers used for books, and the weight of the paper itself lends a different feel as you turn the pages. Some of you are now thinking I'm nuts, and should not blog on night shifts, but these things really do add to my reading experience.

Then there's the new book smell. I think we can all relate to this phenomenon, that perfume arising from the book whose spine you have freshly cracked. That sound and that smell MEAN something to my mind. They tell me that I'm embarking on a journey, an adventure, just me and this book. In that moment, no matter what the truth of the matter is, I am the FIRST person to read this story, the person discovering this place, this time, these people. And as I enter this sacred place of imagination and escape, I feel a sense of anticipation and possibility, seasoned with a touch of trepidation. After all, this author may disappoint my expectations. And it is all set in motion by the touch, the feel, the smell of the book.

So for now, no e-reader for me. Someday I may be seduced by their flashy claims, but for now this old fashioned gal will curl up with an inconvenient book, and let her senses take her to another place.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

In the beginning . . .

Well folks, thank you for the encouragement sent my way thus far. I'm not sure how frequently I will be posting, but my goal is in the two or three times a week range. Sometimes more, sometimes less, we'll see how it goes. For a type A personality, I'm surprising noncommittal about these things. I've thought up quite a few topics for posts, so that should keep things going for some time yet, and after that, well we'll just have to see. Some advice regarding blogging has been really helpful, but as of now I'm not entirely sure what my goals are with this blog. I somewhat feel that I've taken a bit of a blind step, with vague ideas as to where this road goes, and what my purpose is.


The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

The Fellowship of the Ring, by JRR Tolkein, chapter 1.

So my friends, I'll pursue my vague outline, which means that in this post I will tell you about the birth of my love of reading. My parents are both avid readers, as is my Grandma Lyman. My earliest memories of books are tied to memories of my mom, snuggled with her as she read to us Are You My Mother, Hooper Humperdink, and a large variety of Dr Seuss gems. In fact, I believe my parents had signed up for one of those children's book clubs that send a book every so often, and these books are still in their basement for their grandchildren's delight. One book in particular, Oh the Thinks You Can Think is worn and taped up, but my mom can still recite the first 10 or so pages from memory, that's how often I asked for it to be read! I remember the rhythm to the rhyming words, the colourful ideas on the pages, the strange words that I found out were made up (many) years later. One page in particular sent chills up my spine: "And what would you do, if you met a jiboo?" The picture is of a child running across the fictional jiboo on a darkened street, the jiboo having a slight bird-like look to him. I don't know if it's the bird-like part, but I always found that scary.

When I learned to read on my own, I could often be found curled up in some contorted position perusing a book. Both my parents often lost themselves in books, and I think this example encouraged me to continue reading. I was, and still am lucky enough to be able to read in the car, so that often was my occupation of choice on longer drives. The next type of book that makes an impression on my memory was The Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I read Little House on the Prairie, and my love for historical fiction was born. It's still my favourite genre, though I've mentioned before that I like a wide variety of books. Not only did the stories of the Ingalls family interest me, it was the details that held my fascination. I loved reading about how this family went about their day, their chores, how they made maple syrup, built cabins, wore corsets, and wrote on slates. Looking back at those books, especially the earlier ones in the series, the plot is not very eventful, but you are transported to the pioneer life. My baba always said she only read The Long Winter in the summer time, so she could cool off!

I read some other series growing up, the contemporary Sweet Valley series, and The Babysitters' Club. In sixth or seventh grade I went through a horse phase like many girls that age, and read The Black Stallion. Again, it wasn't so much the plot that held my interest, it was the details of caring for, riding, and racing horses that I enjoyed. I think this was when the power of books to take me to another place or life really took root in my psyche. I could imagine myself in these stories, doing what the characters were doing. I don't think it's a coincidence that this was when my interest in drama appeared in my life, for acting is merely the ability to take that imaginary picture in your mind and portray it for other people.

The next formative series I read was Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery. I believe I was twelve when my family visited Uncle Howard in Calgary, a family friend. His girlfriend at the time, Norma, had found out I had never read about Anne, and said that no Canadian girl should grow up without reading about her. I started the book while there, and for Christmas my parents gave me the box set. I could revel in Anne's imagination, and although mine has not got me into as much trouble as hers, I could relate to how she was often carried away!

In high school I was introduced to classic literature. Grade 9 English brought me A Tale of Two Cities, and that was the start of my obsession with Charles Dickens. He remains one of my favourite writers, mostly for the dry wit of his humorous sections. The man is the king of sarcasm. Romeo and Juliet taught me to enjoy Shakespeare, but it was The Taming of the Shrew that my grade 9 drama class saw performed live that sent me searching for the play, and reading more of his comedies. Languages have come fairly easily to me over the years, and reading Shakespeare feels like translating a secret code. Can I make a confession? I read it alone because I usually read it out loud. I love the feel of the words rolling off my tongue, the cadence of them, even when they're not poetic. This is generally frowned upon in public. My horizons have been expanded by Jane Austen and the Brontes in my late teens and early twenties.

On a whim one day, I borrowed a book from my dad's bookshelf. I had seen an old dramatized version of the story several times as a kid, but never with a real impression of the plot. That book was The Fellowship of the Ring, the first book of JRR Tolkein's Lord of the Rings. This accidental pick was the beginning of an obsession lasting many years. Indeed, I'm not entirely sure I'm cured of it. You see, fantasy was a genre I had read a few books in here or there, but they were short reads, good for a brief distraction. I never felt any attachment to the genre, and usually skipped over it while browsing at the bookstore. But Frodo and Sam immediately dashed any preconceived notions I had of what would be waiting for me between those covers. Maybe because I had recently left home at the age of 19, and was even more sensitive to new experiences, or maybe the story touched a vague memory of the film version (which was really not that good, sorry Dad!). Maybe Middle Earth called to me, as it seems to call to all who feel kinship with its citizens. Whatever the reason, my geekometer went off the charts, and at the end of the book, I was desperate for more. After reading The Two Towers, and The Return of the King, I experienced my first end-of-series-depression. Once you finish a series, you realize you can never read it again for the first time. Some of you may be thinking "um, no kidding," but others will know what I mean.

Anyway, Tolkein is so fabulous that I think I'll have to save a separate blog post for him. This post ended up being much longer than I expected, so if you've made it to this sentence, congratulations! Thank you for your patience as I've tried to trace my journey to where I am today. What has formed your love for books? What are some of the life-changing stories you've read?

Friday, 14 September 2012

Here am I: Anyone listening?

Today in my daily facebook trolling, the subject of books came up, and which book had changed your life. After sharing mine, I found myself with my mind on books, reading, literature, etc. Not that books are ever far from my mind, but rather the idea of reading and what it has meant to me over the years was percolating in my mind. Then, in my shower (the mother of my invention, generally!) I was hit with the idea: Book Blog! I've been wanting to blog for a while, and even tried it years ago, but was worried about finding ideas for posts. When it was simply a general "this is my life" diary style blog, I definitely did not keep up with it. However, to blog with a general topic in mind has potential, and reading is a never-ending subject with me!

So, here am I. Here to share what I'm currently reading, have read, thoughts on the written word, genres, likes and dislikes, formats, etc. I am a true bibliophile, the smell of a new book as intoxicating to me as many a stronger substance, the written word being life to me. If I do not have a book at hand to fill an empty moment, the moment feels just that way: empty. I also realize that reading in community is more fulfilling than simply devouring the material on my own. Book clubs intrigue me, but I don't have the time to commit to one, and my own husband (though I love him dearly) is not a reader. Gasp! Yes, it hurts to say that, but reading for pleasure is not something he enjoys. Therefore, when wanting to share my thoughts on what I read, home is not an option. It's not even that I want to analyze as in an English class. Sometimes I just want to simply revel in a well written book, a scene that thrills me, or a story that inspires me.

Enter some of my friends that I've met over the years with similar literary tastes. Among them is a fellow pastor's wife with a passion for Tolkein and JK Rowling, a fellow mom whose book club I live vicariously through by creeping on their selections through her, and a young lady study the Romantic era of Austen and Bronte. While not actively discussing the books, their recommendations have led me down other literary avenues I might otherwise have left alone. As I thought of these, and others, who have inspired my reading list, I wondered if there was a more informal way to share my love of the written word than an actual club. Enter blogging!

I do like to write, not stories, since dialogue is not my forte, but I have enjoyed scribbling down a few poems that will most likely never see the light of day. If I get brave, I may eventually share them here (don't hold your breath). Journal-type entries, and newsletter type articles come more naturally to me, and sarcastic wit is often an asset here. So, I am hoping that this blog will help me vent some of my book-love, but I also desire an interactive experience. Please share your own thoughts, stories, and love here! Let's geek out on books together!

One final note: I am very new to how blogging works. If you're one of my blogging friends, PLEASE offer hints and tips for how to make this better! I hope I can make this relatively painless, but if I mess up in any formatting, etc. I apologize. Please bear with me!

Next post: how I became a reader, what types of books I love, and what I'm currently reading.