My love affair with books started the very moment I learnt to read. Snuggled up under the arms of my dad, the dim glow of a bedside lamp lighting the pages, I sounded out the words of Spot Goes to School. It was if, as my eyes flicked across letters, deciphering words, a whole universe worth of stories and adventures and possibilities were suddenly revealed. They were there for the taking, all I need do was pick up a book.
In primary school I would have incredibly nerdy competitions with friends over who could finish a book first. As a slow reader, I nearly always lost but those competitions saw us devour classics from The Swiss Family Robinsons to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Then there was the discovery of the genius of Roald Dahl, his fantastical characters and fanciful stories. Each book opened was a new favourite and thinking back even now I am at a loss to choose between them.
While my childhood library brimmed with fantasy and larger-than-life stories, my teenage reading list became more sombre. It reflected the angst of growing and changing and trying to figure out who I would become. I read to relate. The stories I was drawn to were often riddled with sadness, with the challenges of navigating the gap between childhood and adult life and all the anxiety and confusion it involved. I read Guitar Highway Rose and dreamed of running away with a dread-locked boy. I read Peeling the Onion and thought on the process of healing, of the beauty in courage. I read Jessica and cried and cried and cried. Reading as a teenager was cathartic. It stole me moments of peace from an unsettled mind. And helped me survive.
University years meant novels were swapped for marketing texts and biographies for reading lists. Required reading left little time or energy for reading for enjoyment. So for 4 years I mostly read to learn. And learn I did. About quantitative analysis and creative commons, copywriting and media history. The content may not have brought joy, but it did impart knowledge. And in the long summer breaks, novels crept back into my life. I read to dream, to adventure, to escape. I found the beguiling words of Haruki Murakami and was bewitched by The Wind-up Bird Chronicle. I read The God of Small Things and Shantaram and dreamt of pungent, vibrant India.
As university finished, motherhood began and my book shelf found itself inundated with guides to pregnancy and parenting how-to’s. I was again reading to learn. As I came to realise parenting by heart, rather than by rote was by far a better approach there has again been space for stories. My bookshelves aren’t too dissimilar to university days but I’ve found becoming a mother means the stories of life, and loss are so much more intensely felt. No longer is the tale of losing a child an abstract sadness but one that is, even in fiction, full of heart-wrenching grief.
And of course, now, with Lachlan I am able to revisit my childhood enthusiasm for stories: the love affair with reading is coming full circle. His bookshelf is already brimming with wonderful tales, some, the very same I read as a child. So together we read Sail Away: The Ballad of Skip and Nell and pour over the intricacies of Animalia and of course, enjoy the wisdom of Dr Seuss. I hope it is the beginning of his very own lifelong love of books. And that they may keep him company, as they have me, throughout his life.
I’m always searching for new stories, so tell me, what’s your favourite at the moment? Of all time? Why?
*image by Love Twenty.