Photo Credit: Shutterhacks (Creative Commons)
New books have always sent a shiver of delighted anticipation down my spine. The feel of smooth, crisp pages; the creak of stiff spines not yet broken in; the smell of so many different types of paper and ink—it’s a sensory experience that, to this day, produces great excitement as I consider the adventures, lessons, and inspiration that wait within the pages.
I remember Christmas Day as a young girl; my whole family knew that my most coveted presents were books, and I could hardly contain myself and choose which title from my new stack I would read first. Most Christmas afternoons, after our traditional family brunch and gift-opening, I would curl up on the couch or in front of the fire, devouring the new book I had chosen to read first. I remember Opa telling me, “Make it last longer than today!” But I didn’t want to make it last; I couldn’t help myself. I never read quite as fast as my siblings, but I could push through the pages at a respectable pace, and before the afternoon ended and it was time for our prime rib dinner, I had usually immersed myself several hundred pages into a story. Part of me felt wistful when the new books disappeared only a couple of weeks after Christmas. Sometimes I wished I could restrain myself and make the pleasure last longer… but I never could quite do it.
I remember Mom and Dad coming home from homeschool conventions, midway through the summer, with new books for our upcoming school year. Eventually, Mom started to tell us we couldn’t read the new books until school actually started, since we would usually rush through them before summer had even ended. She would shake her head and say, “Those were supposed to be for school next year!” She finally started putting them in a box or on a shelf, strictly off limits until the first day of school. When we were younger, she would read aloud to us every single day after lunch, usually from one of those new books she had found at the convention. She never had to push very hard for us to enjoy reading. All three of us became avid readers at early ages, and for me in particular, nothing about the start of school was more exciting than new books.
Even in college, new books still brought a rush—yes, even textbooks, although the feeling didn’t always last. I always tried to approach textbooks with an eye to their potential, willing to believe that I would find wonderful things between their covers, and while not all of them lived up to that potential, I never lost my appreciation for the possibilities. I did read a select number of wonderful titles in college, although I also struggled with what my sister Megan called “textbook syndrome” and only recovered by forcing myself to start reading purely for enjoyment again.
As I face the daily challenge of balancing work, marriage, and a home with my ever-present desire to read, I have started to realize how important it is to carve out time to continue pursuing the love of books that has embedded itself deep in my soul. Like anything else, I have to practice reading if I want to stay “in shape” and continue to become a better reader. Along with my writing practice, I have also set goals for reading practice this year, and I have had one of the most enriching years of reading that I can remember in recent history.
Earlier in the year, I had some birthday money from my family, and rather than simply dump it in my savings account as I generally tend to do, I decided to buy some books that I’ve been coveting for awhile. I tried to choose titles very deliberately—books that would inspire, would teach, and would grow my mind and my spirit. I felt like that little girl version of myself on Christmas morning when the first package arrived with three books inside. I even squealed to Austin, “It’s like Christmas!!!”
Of all the lessons my parents taught me, one of the lessons that I am most grateful for is this love for books and for reading. While they never tried to force us to read, we naturally gravitated toward books because of our family read-alouds and the overflowing library with which they supplied us. Giving us books as gifts taught us that books were special, and making a daily priority of reading aloud to us taught us that books were important.
After struggling during the last several years to become a “good reader” once again, I am so grateful for this profitable and truly enjoyable year of reading that has challenged and encouraged my heart through some delightful books.
(For a list of the books I’ve read so far this year, visit my “24 in 2012” page.)