Lately my outings with friends to the used English bookstores have taken on shades of "Sex in the City." Before entering, I stop, look them in the eye and deliver the following charge: "Now I am going to enter this store where there are books. There will be books that I will find interesting. I will pick them up. I will open them. I may even start to read a few lines. But please understand, that under NO circumstances, should I be allowed to actually PURCHASE a book. This is visit is of a recreational, rather than retail, nature."
And there you have it folks, my real addiction-books. Or rather reading. Since I'm making myself vulnerable to you, I'll go ahead and divulge a secret fantasy I've had for quite some time (I can see you start to squirm now at the thought of hearing my fantasies. Do not be alarmed. It's G-rated.). My fantasy is that some day I'll have some sort of aliment (not life threatening mind you) that requires bedrest for 3-6 months. However my sight won't be affected so I will be able to do nothing but read all day long!
It is a tad sad that I would wish such misfortune to befall me but you have to understand the lifelong love affair I've had with reading. It started with me learning reading very early on (I honestly can't remember how-Sesame Street and Electric Company I suppose?). I do remember my first chapter book though. It was my first week of first grade and instead of being in reading class, I was sent out to the library to pick something to read until the teachers figured out just what they were going to do with me. The chapter book was this mystery about the scary ghost in the barn which turned out to be a harmless owl. Surprising that such a gripping plot would stick in my brain over the years!
However that illustrates how much reading has impacted my life. Like many other parents, my parents read me books every night before bed. In fact I blame Heidi for ruining my eyesight and causing me to need glasses in the 4th grade. I was so engrossed in the drama of this little orphan that as soon as my mom or dad would stop reading at a particularly good place and closed the bedroom door, I would turn on the dim nightlight behind my bed and read on ! I learned unknown words by context and didn't bother sounding them out so consequently my spelling and pronunciation were atrocious for quite some time!
My reading addiction got worse as time went on. My mother got frustrated at my long periods of withdrawal (The Lord of the Rings book set from my Aunt Nona or the Chronicles of Narnia set were often the culprits.) and would take to confiscating my book of the moment, hiding it around the house and demanding I do something active outside. Books became my friends and I loved everything about them.
It's no wonder that I got an afterschool job at the local public library. My reading really took off then because I wanted to see what was so great about books like Bridges of Madison County (It took me literally 45 minutes to read and I wanted my life back.) or The Firm (Definately better but unfortunately every John Grisham I've read after that was kind of the same.) that flew off the shelves and had long reservation lists. During university years, I also worked at the library on campus and during the summers went back home to the public library to coordinate the children's summer reading library program. I still love teaching reading and helping children discover the magic of books like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Charlotte's Web and Where the Red Fern Grows.
I also can't deny I was heavily influenced by people around me. The children's librarian (and the first Seventh Day Adventist I ever met) sought me out to recommend Lloyd C. Alexander's The Chronicles of Prydair. My cousin who sent me book lists and recommendations and later the books themselves. The best (and worst) books I've ever read both came from her. My boss at the university library was forever asking me "So- what are you reading?" instead of "How are you doing?" This line of questioning persuaded me to read books with more depth, if only so I would avoid the embarrassment of admitting to reading the latest Anne Rice novel! My father loves books and has boxes and boxes of books that he wants for reference or got as gifts or fully intends to read at some point. And of course I was influenced by wonderful book clubs that I belonged to both in Kansas and in Korea.
Unfortunately I've inherited my father's addiction to literature collection. This is problematic when moving and packing. So I lately have been making an effort to READ the just the books I HAVE and NOT get MORE. I am proud to say that I'm down to five books now! I've read and given away/returned the rest. And although it's been hard (see the first paragraph above) I know I have a couple of boxes of unopened treasures just waiting for me when I cross this pond on August 29th. I'm already thinking of which book I'll start on first. I can't wait!
PS: I've posted my list of the last five books in the comment section as well but wanted to post here so that you could click on the links for more information.
1. Gay Theology Without Apology (currently reading)by Gary David Comstock
2. One Was Annie by Laura Kay Reiter (my university writing professor)
3. We're Here, We're Queer, We're Used to It (edited by my friend here in Seoul, Rebecka) a whirlwind tour through the lives of 11 young emerging authors and artists from across Canada and the United States.
4. Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century by John Boswell (I read his recent book Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe last summer in Great Bend and LOVED IT and you should know I'm not into non-fiction AT ALL.)
5. some learning Korean book (hope springs eternal)
Oh and my daily devotional book The Word Is Out: The Bible Reclaimed for Lesbians and Gay Men by Chris Glaser so technically six books I suppose!