Confessions of an Omnivorous Reader

I am a reader. My favorite genres include mystery, suspense, thriller, romance, science fiction, and adventure. I read memoirs and history, newspapers, magazines, and if nothing else is handy, the cereal box. This addiction began at age four when my five-year-old brother started reading to me. I saw blotches of black lines and squiggles under the pictures. He ran his finger along the blotches, transforming them into sounds, words, sentences, and stories. I wanted that magic, that superpower.

The Library

In time, my brothers and I discovered that most magical of places—the public library! Unleashed in the children’s section, we read and read until mother dragged us out with armloads of loaners. Such riches! We could travel in time and space on adventures and learn about places far from home. Though mother probably brought us to the library so she could study in peace for her eventual law degree, she did us a huge favor. She kept us away from late afternoons of mind-numbing television.

When I travel to New York City, my must-see location is the New York City Public Library and to visit Patience and Fortitude, the lions who stand guard.

The Classics

By high school, my brothers and I launched into a competition to read the set of 100 classics in paperback that Mom had purchased. Baby brother, not to be outdone, read the Encyclopedia Britannica set as well. We teased him that only a geek reads reference books, but truth be told, I kept a dictionary by my bed to scour it for new words like syzygy and conflagration to drop into conversation. With reading comes a love for words. In my family, Scrabble is a blood sport.

reader joyThe Plays

In college, I studied 300 plays in depth. I had planned to work for a newspaper by day and write plays at night. Fortunately, that didn’t work out. I ended up writing for business, then for magazines, followed by a stint teaching report writing at a police academy, and then publishing my first novel. Throughout the decades, the joy of reading continued.

A website called Goodreads.com became the social media site for readers, so I set up a profile and started listing books I’d read. It would have been easier check off books from a list of classics and the most popular books in the last the thirty years than to name them from memory. Since joining the site, I have tried to rate and review books as soon as I finish them. So many new authors, so many new books by my favorite authors, the to-be-read list is laughably long and considerably incomplete. May I live to read them all.

I read everything but erotica. The three erotica books I read were boring. Seriously, if Tom Clancy put a car chase in every scene, his stories would have been boring. If Stephen King put a killer clown in every story, well, forget suspense. Predictability turns me off.

I cannot imagine life without books. When someone says, “I don’t read” my first thought is “you poor thing.” No stirring of the imagination, no laughter, no seeing the world from a new perspective, no growth, no adventure, no new ideas, no passion…might as well take away color and music from the world. Do non-readers dream in gray?

The Favorite Authors

When asked to name my favorite authors, I begin with Richard Adams, Aesop, Mitch Albom, Louisa May Alcott, Isabele Allende, Poul Anderson, Piers Anthony, Aristotle, Isaac Asimov, Margaret Atwood, Jane Austin, David Baldacci, J. M. Barrie, Dave Barry, L. Frank Baum, Samuel Beckett, Peter Benchley, Steve Berry, Maeve Binchy, William Peter Blatty, Judy Blume, Ben Bova, Ray Bradbury, Barbara Taylor Bradford, Charlotte Bronte, Geraldine Brooks, Dan Brown, Sandra Brown, Edna Buchanan, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Meg Cabot, Erskine Caldwell, Taylor Caldwell, Truman Capote, Orson Scott Card, Lewis Carroll, Willa Cather, Raymond Chandler, Anton Chekhov, Lee Child, Agatha Christie, Winston Churchill, Tom Clancy, Mary Higgins Clark, Arthur C. Clarke, Beverly Cleary, Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), Harlan Coben, Jackie Collins, William Congreve, Joseph Conrad, Robin Cook, James Fenimore Cooper, Patricia Cornwell, Michael Crichton, E. E. Cummings, and Clive Cussler…

People stop me long before I reach the D surnames.

My husband begs me to buy books on Kindle to prevent book hoarding. I call it collecting. The books aren’t stacked two rows per shelf everywhere…yet. If I ever lose my vision, then I’ll switch to audio books.

Call me a book addict. Call me a bookworm. Call me when there’s a book sale.


This article first appeared on the blog Not Your Usual Suspects on January 19, 2018.

Book Hoarding Made Easy

Family dragged me into the digital age of reading books on a screen. I wasn’t really kicking and screaming, more like whining. At first I balked that the screen didn’t have the heft, the tactile knowledge of nearing the last chapter, the smell of ink and paper, and the visual reminder of a world once explored. And then how could I get a copy signed by an author? Okay, and I also harbor a general leeriness toward fad-of-the-moment technology. What if digital book technology was like the Sony Walkman, pagers, Betamax, Super 8/8mm video cameras, laser disc players, floppy discs, or 8-track type players? Why bother deciphering the user manual if the thing would soon go the way of the manual typewriter?

All whining quieted after Hubby bought me a Kindle. A generous soul by nature, hubby gave me this device for a thoughtful reason and a selfish one. The thoughtful reason catered to my voracious appetite for reading. The Kindle enabled me to buy books instantly, and who doesn’t love instant gratification?

INSTANT AVAILABILITY

The selfish reason hubby bought the Kindle was to satisfy his longing for more order on the bookcases in our home. Stacking books two deep on shelves didn’t appeal to his aesthetics. He often urged me to read the books we own before buying more. But honey, I said, when I go to writers conferences they GIVE me books…and the used bookstore in town takes trade-ins. Supply and demand remained in balance for the most part. Fine. I’ll admit that I spend money on books as fearlessly as congress spends our tax dollars. Not on that scale, mind you, but with equal abandon.

HOARDING

Could I be a hoarder? My name is Joni. I am a book hoarder. Wait, no. Let’s call it collecting. Hoarding books isn’t as frightening as say, hoarding broken clocks, or mismatched china, or human teeth. Right? The signs of hoarding include:

  1. keeping things most other people don’t value.
  2. being unable to use parts of one’s house for their intended purpose.
  3. having so much clutter that it causes distress or impairment.

Like good manners, I suppose many people these days don’t value books as they once did. I can’t use the sofa in the study because of the stack of books on it. And–uh, oh–hubby is distressed by the stacks and I’m too embarrassed to show photos of the worst of the overstuffed bookcases. Egad. I’m three for three. My daughter might be dialing a reality tv show producer at this moment. So many it’s time for a Kindle.

FREEBIES

The first major selling point on the Kindle was the vast collection of freebie classics! Free! Like a kid in a candy store, I think I drooled  as I scrolled through pages of freebies. I’ve lost so many books over the years from lending them out to moving from Indiana to Louisiana to Florida that uploading classics felt like reclaiming long-lost friends.

MAGIC

The second major selling point on the Kindle was the promise of magic–being able to pack HUNDREDS of books in my purse. Like Mary Poppins’ carpetbag, or Hermione’s magical handbag carrying a tent and supplies for Harry Potter and Ronald Weasley, the Kindle contains worlds. In the mood for a hilarious romance? Click on a title by Kristin Higgins. Horror? Stephen King and Dean Koontz’s works are a touch away. Various versions of the Bible at the ready and word searchable. Sort your collection by title, by author, or by most-recently uploaded with a Midas touch. Honestly, I couldn’t find which room, let alone which bookshelf a particular fiction book might be in my house. This magic slab of plastic and metal will keep all nineteen–soon to be twenty–of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books together in one place instead of migrating from house to car to suitcase to friends. Organization and instant access, the device is my personal librarian, or a genie at my command.

ACCESS

The third major selling point on digital books is that oh-so-handy Kindle application that can connect me to my digital library from my laptop, a tablet, a smart phone, or my Kindle. Never again will hubby and I have to wrestle over the only copy of Dan Brown’s latest book. If the house blows away in a hurricane, my digital book collection will be safely stored in the cloud.

 AUTHOR SIGNATURE

The fourth major selling point, the one that obliterates my last objection, is that authors can digitally sign books. I have amassed signed books from over 100 of my favorite authors. These books reside in a glass-enclosed bookcase in the study where children cannot play with them. Meeting the author adds more meaning to the book. Each book signing marks the bond between author and reader. Even though I am an author, I am first a reader, a devourer of stories. Though I haven’t asked for a digital signature from an author yet, the time will come. And who knows when an author might sit beside me on a plane? It will be easy to have a copy of his or her work on hand.

So when pastor sees me looking down into the glow of my device during service he might suspect I’m texting, or trolling the internet, but I’m following along in King James, New American Standard, and New International Version. Because I can.

So there. Let book purists weep over me. I’ve gone to the dark side, gone to digital for the freebies, for the instant access, for the ease of finding one book among hundreds, and to prevent buying a fourteenth bookcase. Now only Amazon.com and I will know how many books I’ve hoarded. Hehehehe. And no, I’m not getting rid of the cloth, leather, or paperback bound books filling our bookcases. Sometimes I still need the feel and smell of them.