I can’t remember a time I wasn’t reading – or being read – a book. “What are you reading now,” has always been a great conversation starter for most members of my family. Books and writers have always been an integral part of my life. Lines of novels constantly roll through my head like a crawling newsfeed (often, just as relevant).
I firmly believe that the books you read as a child shape your identity and define your life in a powerful and unique way. More than any time, the world you escape to in the books you read when you are young is just as important as the real world around you – sometimes even more so.
One of my first memories is my mother reading to me before bed. The first book that was ever read to me was P.L. Travers’ Mary Poppins. Interestingly, the first book ever read to my brother (just 18 months younger) was J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. If you know either one of us, you can see – without question – how these books have impacted and shaped each of our lives and helped to make us who we are today.
I dabbled in books in elementary school, basking in the Scholastic Book Fair deliveries, cracking the spines of the Ramona and Baby Sitter Club series and Texas Bird Guides, but it really wasn’t a necessary part of my life…yet.
The book that finally hooked me – to the point of all-night obsession – was L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables.
Just imagine – I was a Central-Texas girl growing up in the mesquite-laden countryside – with no neighbors for miles. I lost myself in Anne of Green Gables, certainly…but I FOUND myself at the same time. I could relate to Anne’s isolation and imagination. We were so much the same, I imagined that we’d be great friends. We even shared the same chores – She had to wash dishes BY HAND – just as I did! Plus, she was wistful and spunky in an intelligent way. The only difference I could see was that Anne lived several generations before me in – what I considered to be – a beautiful far-away place (where they named their islands after princes): CANADA.
After I savored the first book, I gobbled up the full series. I related to these characters – and would think about them long after the book was back on the shelf. I moved on to Montgomery’s Emily books, then The Storygirl books (the worn, thick paperbacks took up an entire corner of my room), and finally, the Pat series (but, sadly, by that point, the storylines had – in my opinion – fallen flat, and I felt a bit like the drug addict whose fix is no longer as good as the initial hit.)
So I moved on, with only a twinge of lingering regret, to Willa Cather, Phyllis A. Whitney, Mary Higgins Clark, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Wilder, Mountain-Dreamer, McMurtry, Rowling….and others.
However, I have always considered L.M. Montgomery my first literary love. And perhaps it is she who has literally shaped my life the most.
Recently, I picked up a rare “grown-up” novel she’d written late in her career – The Blue Castle – and I was hit with an unexpected wave of nostalgia….as if I’d run into an old flame.
My old Anne paperbacks are long gone, and I’m no longer as wistful or spunky as I once was. But maybe that just means I need to lose myself in a re-reading….who knows what (or who) I’ll find.
“I’m not a bit changed – not really. I’m only just pruned down and branched out. The real ME – back here – is just the same.” L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables
So…what book did it for you? What book made YOU a reader?