I have a confession to make. I didn’t enjoy reading until well into adulthood. My mother tried her best to entice me with The Happy Hollisters but I was only briefly interested. I resisted reading the books assigned in school, skimming them only sufficiently enough to be able to pass any quizzes or tests. Only one book stands out in my memory from my childhood: Toby Tyler by James Otis; the story of a boy who runs away to join a circus. I eventually hunted down a copy to read to my own children.
I was in my early 30s, having a conversation with a coworker who was an avid reader. She was telling me about a book she was currently reading, and I was smiling and nodding up until she asked me what I liked to read. I told her I had a subscription to Parents magazine (which I did). She recommended West With the Night by Beryl Markham and loaned me her copy. At that time, I was taking the bus back and forth to work most days; a 45-minute trip each way. I started reading that book and couldn’t put it down. Oh, what I’d missed!
I reacquainted myself with our local library and happened to choose I Heard the Owl Call My Name by Margaret Craven. Shortly after finishing it, I bought a copy to keep. Then there were books by Barbara Kingsolver, Louise Erdrich, Larry McMurtry, Anne Tyler, Robert James Waller (there is so much more to him than Bridges!), Maya Angelou, Edward Abbey, Maeve Binchy and so many others. A favorite was Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner. I was introduced to him by an English teacher at the high school where I was working. I’m currently reading his book Crossing to Safety.
So why am I telling you this? I’m usually a little late to the party when it comes to reading books that are currently trending. This was the case with The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society which I finished a month or so ago. It had been on my “to read” shelf for a while. In the afterword, the co-author reveals that the titles of books sprinkled throughout the novel (books that the fictional “society” would have chosen) are books that her aunt, the other author, truly enjoyed during her own lifetime. I found it fascinating to be able to have a glimpse at an author’s own bookshelf in this way, especially since the books I’ve enjoyed most have invariably been those that were recommended to me.
One more thought. If not for Annie Dillard’s otherworldly description of a total solar eclipse in Teaching a Stone to Talk, we wouldn’t have gathered the family to camp in a remote field in Sublimity, Oregon on August 21, 2017.