Monday, December 7, 2015

How I Evolved as a Reader

I believe every reader evolves over time. Looking back, my progression was clear - even if I didn't notice it at the time.

I come from a family of non-readers. I was the misfit. The weirdo. Hoarding Baby Sitters Club books and reading after bedtime throughout middle school. What can I say, I was a rebel.

YA books in the 1990s were nothing like they are today. I'm sure teens read. They must have, right? I have no idea what they were reading though. I didn't read in high school, beyond school assignments. Well, that's not completely true. I distinctly remember reading It by Stephen King, while lying out by the pool over the summers during high school. I remember because I couldn't figure out what to read and it looked long. It was. I read that one single book at least 2 summers and into college.

After I had my oldest daughter, in 2000, I needed adult distraction. I was a young mom. None of my friends had kids. The internet was nothing like it is today. No Goodreads. No blogs. Google was still in its infancy. Learning about new books and authors was still hit or miss. So I got back into reading with household names. Dean Koontz. Jackie Collins. Whatever the library was featuring. Anne Rice and Michael Crichton kept me interested enough to delve deeper.

My social anxiety kept me from asking a librarian for help. Honestly, I never even considered that a possibility, anxiety or not. Librarians were shushers and late fee demanders. It never dawned on me that they were librarians because of their love of books and the desire to help someone just like me find ones that I would love. A huge missed opportunity for me. While wandering the stacks, I found James Patterson, Carolyn Hart and Kathy Reichs, discovering my lasting love of mystery in its many varieties.

Eventually (guesstimated around 2002-2003), I found a few book related Yahoo groups. Those wonderful people, none of whom I remember, introduced me to banned books. And Oprah's Book Club (but we aren't going to get into that, as it was a stunning failure). I read Margaret Atwood and Marion Zimmer Bradley because of them. The Handmaid's Tale and The Mists of Avalon changed my life. Until that point, I had liked books, but I have never once experienced a book that blew my frigging mind. The moment I finished The Mists of Avalon I knew I was a different person. An adult reader. An addict, desperate for that feeling of being sucked into a book and not wanting to escape.

I read more banned books, more classics, more bestsellers and couldn't find that feeling again. I often fell back on mysteries and Stephen King. My go-tos when nothing else is working for me. Turns out, I had a big road block in front of me, blocking me from finding exactly what I was looking for. Book snobbery.

At that point, I was only reading well known authors. How could an author be good if no one knew about them? Crazy thinking, since my sphere of influence only included non-readers and strangers on Yahoo. While looking at yet another Anne Rice book on Amazon, I noticed Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake series. On a whim, I bought the first 3 books bundled. I read the first one and never looked back. That order was a life changing decision. She's well known now, but back then, I was going in blind. I devoured the series. I read everything else by Hamilton I could get my hands on, including Death of a Dark Lord (based on some Dungeons and Dragons thing I know nothing about, even today).

Accepting that a book didn't have to be known by everyone (ie non-readers) freed me. I quickly moved on to MaryJanice Davidson, Kelley Armstrong, and many others. I was still a book snob in denial though. Sure, I was reading wider than I had ever before, even dipping my nose into the slowly emerging YA section, but I was still holding back.

In 2005, I accidentally read Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl. Yup, accidentally. I would never read a middle grade book. I was far too mature for that. Except, I bought it not realizing its intended audience and loved it. And the rest of the series. And everything else he had written to that point.

Because of that accident, I willingly picked up Harry Potter. And my life changed again. J.K. Rowling became my idol. Her talent for creating worlds and tearing my heart right out of my chest has never been surpassed. Reading Harry Potter was an experience I would never, ever trade.

I bopped along happily for years, reading whatever piqued my interest. If Amazon recommended it, I'd read it. It was an eclectic mix of predominately supernatural, mysteries and chick lit.

In 2008, I came upon the now defunct J. Kaye’s Book Blog. Talk about eye opening. Not only was there a blog about books, but there were a wealth of other readers all discussing books in the comments. And a lot of them had these book blogs. I read the blog religiously for over a year, finally deciding to start my own.

In October 2009, I started the (also defunct) Reading with Tequila. Holy crap, was that a life changer. I talked about books. Other people came to my site and talked to me about books. We all loved books together. And these other readers - they were full of recommendations. Good ones.

After that, I was reading over 200 books a year. I joined reading challenges. Accepted review copies was too easily (learning to say no most of the time came later). Embraced Goodreads and LibraryThing. Joined events like Dewey's Readathon and Bloggiesta. Went to BEA a couple times. Met other bloggers in person. Met real, live authors. I was fully immersed in the world of books and loved every minute of it.

Since becoming a book blogger over 6 years ago, my involvement in the blogosphere has had it's ups and downs time-wise. Life, man. Sometimes it's a post a day, sometimes it's a post a month. But I'm always reading. Always getting in at least a few pages each day. Always looking for new authors, new books, new genres to try. I know that next life changing book is out there somewhere and I know it could come from anywhere - even where I might least expect.

1 comment :

  1. I love that you came into reading so late, yet are now reading 200 books a year. I'm lucky to make fifty. Here's to another 6 years of book blogging!