On Books – In the beginning . . .

I’m writing a pretty tough piece right now, so to lighten my mood, I’m reflecting on something funny in my life.

When I first started reading books, I was very, very nervous. I didn’t know what books to read or what a genre really was. I had very little experience in my own school library – a tragic short coming of the American public school system – and the concept of picking a book I actually wanted to read was more than just abstract. It was almost nonexistent. I didn’t know what books I could possibly enjoy and the concept of a story I picked for myself was so far beyond me, looking back, I am surprised I even knew what a book really was.

It’s funny to think that someone would ever have to explain what a book was to me, but it was really something so confusing. I didn’t know how to properly use the library and I didn’t know what it was to pick a book by reading the synopsis. So, I usually would absently go to the shelf, grab a book that caught my attention and check it out. Only later did I eventually think to read the synopsis, but only in middle school and onward.

As I grew older, my grasp on what a book was really began to solidify. The very first book I ever finished was the third Harry Potter book, and it took me about 2 years to finish. I was in fourth grade and finishing the book was possibly one of the biggest milestones in my childhood. I used to pick books that were really chunky because I felt super cool reading them and it was that year that I understood what it was to read a book by consciously picking it up.

I started reading more, usually books a little too difficult for me but I didn’t like the stories that were meant for my reading level. I began reading books outside of school that I could convince my parents to buy me from the Wal Mart or HEB in my town.

I used my book money as wisely as possible. It was very little money I had and I didn’t want to pick a book that I would regret. As a result, most of the books I got were nonfiction reference materials about animals and geography. One of the first fiction books I ever bought was To Kill a Mockingbird. I was 11 years old when I bought it and I put it down half way. It was too abstract and difficult for me. But I didn’t get rid of it. When I read it again later in high school, I loved it.

I would never buy books when we visited big cities. I never asked to visit the book store, even though I was offered it, because I knew I would be the only one to enjoy it and we usually had other things others wanted to do. I didn’t mind not going. Besides, I couldn’t fathom going into a book store and restraining myself to any sort of budget. I knew that if I was offered to buy books the following would happen: 1 – I would explode from the excitement, 2 – I would be in there all day, and 3 – I would be so damn lost because I had absolutely no idea how to buy a book.

I’ve come so far and it really astounds me that I am where I am when it comes to book reading and buying. I got my first library card last year, at the ripe old age of 24. I know, it’s beyond me how I didn’t do it sooner. And I surprise myself to see how far I’ve come since my very first unsteady steps in picking out books for myself.

My system for picking books still hasn’t really changed. 🙂 I go to a book store and I usually have absolutely no idea what books I’m going to get. I don’t have a real list of favorite authors, save for three or four, and I usually don’t even look at their names when picking them out. I usually go to the clearance section of the Half Price I’m at, because that’s my bookstore of choice, and I pick out whatever title catches my eye. I glance at the back – is it set before the 1600s? Yes? In the basket. No? Is it general fiction with any sort of disturbing or theme I find unique? Yes? In the basket. No? I’ll pass. And that’s pretty much it. 🙂 I’ll buy books without even knowing their titles if I like the way the pages feel. Not the most advanced system but it works! And about 1,000 books later, can’t say I would change it for the world.

By using this system, I find myself exploring anything and everything that could possibly catch my eye. I don’t limit myself to genre, author, or much of anything by allowing myself to be a blank slate and reading anything and everything. I have a few books set in modern times, though those are still difficult for me to buy. But for the most part, I’ll read anything recommended to me. 🙂

I want to read everything I can get my hands on, whether it’s a me book or not. I want to expand my literary horizons and truly understand and refine my taste in books. I want to understand why I love the books I love and I want to understand why I don’t like the books I don’t like.

For someone who didn’t even understand what a book really was until the age of about 10, I think I’ve come pretty far. And I still have so much further to go!