Friday, April 11, 2008

Evolution of a Reader

I learned how to read when I was five. When people came over to visit, my father would drag out the King James Bible and I would demonstrate my prowess. When I began piano lessons at seven, then I would first read a Bible passage and then play a hymn. I always wondered if other fathers made their little kids play What a Friend We Have in Jesus for their company. Or was I the only one?

Anyway, I digress. Sorry. When I was ten, my mother died in a car accident Memorial Day weekend. We were actually moving across country so when she died, we were in the middle of New Mexico. There wasn't any home to go to. We went to my grandparents in Arizona and buried her there and then continued with the move to Indiana.

It was a lonely summer for me. I didn't know anybody. The other kids made fun of my southwestern accent. I was completely miserable until I found the bookmobile. It was a small library van that drove around to the different neighborhoods with books. I loved the bookmobile. That summer I became a reader.

Knowing how to read and actually being a reader are two very different things. I sneaked under the covers with a flashlight and stayed up all night reading. I have no idea what I read. I know that I became a voracious reader, soaking up anything I could get my hands on. My cousins had all of the Tom Swift and Hardy Boys books. Whenever we went over to their house I went into their room and devoured those books. Books... books were my friends.

From the time I was ten until I graduated from high school, I was a reader. One year I kept a diary of all the books I read. During one school year, I read three hundred seventy nine books. That was the year I discovered Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart, biographies, mysteries, and who knows what else.

Then I married and reading sort of went by the wayside. I had three small children. I had friends. I was too busy to read. Until we moved to Texas where I didn't know a soul and spent all my time with three children under four. After a while to maintain my sanity, I found a library within walking distance. They had scads of paperback romances. Up to that point I didn't have any experience with romances. But at this library I discovered Emilie Loring, Glenna Finley, and Georgette Heyer. And thus began a long love affair with romances.

Over the years, I've read all sorts of books--everything from police procedurals to science fiction and fantasy. But inevitably I always return to romances. I read the first Nora Roberts back when it was her first book. And I've followed along as Nora, Jayne Ann Krentz, Elizabeth Lowell, Linda Howard, and Iris Johansen developed and grew as writers.

It's kinda of funny to talk to young women now who only know the most recent work of these and so many other writers. They rave about what great writers they are and act as though they've discovered some new fabulous treasure. Heh. They've been around a long time, along with so many who have passed away or retired. So many treasures that won't be added to because their creators are gone.

Then one day while browsing in Borders I came across a new kind of book--a book from Ellora's Cave. I bought it and brought it home where I devoured it in one sitting. There in the back of the book was a short explanation of e-books. Hmmmm. I never looked back. When I started reading e-books I could never have envisioned a time when almost any book was available in electronic format. Who could dream of such a thing?

As I sat up late--or very early, depending on your view--reading a book on my digital reader, it occurred to me that life has changed in many material ways and yet I'm exactly where I started back when I was ten. I'm a reader, soaking up the printed word, sinking into that hidden world that one can only find in an excellent story. Life is good.

So do you remember the first book that caught your imagination? Do you have a recommendation? Tell us about that favorite book yours.

Mine? The Windflower by Laura London, Morning Glory by LaVryle Spencer, Sprig Muslin by Georgette Heyer, and a ton of others.... Recent ones? Shades of Gray by Amarinda Jones, Marriage Mart by Kelly Kirch, Caught in the Devil's Hand by Ruby Duvall...


Please stop by Amarinda's Place, Kelly's Blog, and OhGetAGrip to find out what's new in life. Drop by Sandra's Blog to check out the baby pics of your favorite authors. Leave a comment for a chance for a prize.


  1. When I was in the second grade, I discovered biographies. My mom had Julia Ward Howe, Sacajawea, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Mary Mapes Dodge. Later, with my teacher's help, I discoverd many other wonderful biographies, but I always came back to HBS. When she wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin, she literally shut herself in her room and wrote non-stop until it was finished. Sometimes I'm like that too; I don't stop until Life utterly demands my attention.

    First romance novel: The Flame and the FLower by Kathleen Woodiwiss. I was hooked. First E-book? Water Lust, by Mary Winter. 3rd E-book? Because I Can, by some Jones woman...and then came some wacky tales about a place with blue people, hee hee...

  2. A business acquaintance of my fathers gave me eight YA romances when I was in 8th grade. I was hooked from that point on, buying every Sweet Valley High and Sweet Dreams book I could get. I had hundreds of them. When I moved back to the States, my mom bought me my first adult romance as a way of teaching me about unreal romantic expectations, "that clothes don't just fall away and people don't lose themselves in passion". I missed the point completely because I kept buying and kept reading, albiet secretly.

    It wasn't until about ten years ago that I admitted to loving romances and didn't hide in the bookstores when I went to buy them. I love the HEA. I love falling in love each and every time I open a book. I love the first kiss and the second that hate turns to love for the characters.

    And Anny, I am honored to be included in your list of the greats. Flabbergasted and completely totally honored. Thank you.