Sunday, April 13, 2008

Why I read

Over at Moments in Crime, Barbara "Barfly" Fister, has written an eloquent essay on why she reads. And she's tagged me to play in a blog meme, so here goes:

In "Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading," NPR book reviewer Maureen Corrigan opens her book with: "It's not that I don't like people. It's just that when I'm in the company of others -- even my nearest and dearest -- there always comes a moment when I'd rather be reading a book." Growing up in a family of mostly non-readers, I thought I was alone in this burrowing of books, this need to escape into another life, even if for just a few minutes a day.

I don't know how I became a reader. My parents weren't big readers, though they did buy me books (including an encyclopedia set which they paid off in monthly installments) and took me often to the public library. At 9, already a bookworm, my mother thought the best way to explain my soon-to-be-arriving brother would be to take me to the library and find child-appropriate books on the birds and the bees.

But, if anything, it was Mark Twain who really made me a reader -- specifically, Tom Sawyer. My life couldn't have been farther from Tom's life -- we didn't have any white-picket fences to whitewash (or con others into whitewashing). There were no caves to explore in Miami, Florida, and the closest to a river was the always-murky canal behind our house. But I reread Tom Sawyer over and over in elementary school, in between The Bobbsey Twins.

My love of reading continued unabated throughout junior high and high school, as I devoured history books, science fiction, mysteries, anything. I credit my love of reading to thinking I could write, too, and becoming a journalist. Now, as a copy editor, I read for work as well. But I still read for pleasure, mostly crime fiction these days. For me, it's the challenge of the whodunnit, the unraveling of a mystery, that draws me (and for that, I prefer the traditional British mystery, thank you). I love these mysteries so much that I've traveled twice to the U.K. on mystery-book tours.

People have asked if I would ever consider writing a mystery myself. Maybe, though it seems an awfully hard task. For now, I'm much happier just being a reader.


Barbara said...

Thanks for playing! You reminded me of Maureen Corrigan's book - that was good! And I do agree with her, a day without reading is not satisfying at all.

You also remind me of the day our World Book set arrived in a great big box. It was an enormous moment of excitement.

I think it's wonderful that you escape into a book even though you work all day with words. I hope you're able to turn off your internal copy editor and just enjoy.

Anonymous said...

I was particularly struck by your comment about others asking why you don't write your own book because you read so much. I get that a fair bit as well - I often wonder what makes people think that because you can read a book, you could write a book. I don't think it follows and I strongly doubt I could write a book - particularly a mystery, a good one, after all has so many elements to it.

Great article incidentally :)