Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Reading Roots

Yesterday on her blog, Bethanne was ruminating on how she came to read the genre(s) she reads, then asked, “where did you get your start? Did you do the classics? Did you pick up your Aunt's catagory romance novel from the side table and read it while no one was looking? Were you a tom-boy, reading The Hardy Boys, or did you follow SOP and read Nancy Drew? Tell me!”

I believe I’ve come full-circle in my reading choices.

I’ve loved books for as long as I can remember. My favorite moment in first grade was the end of the day on Friday, when we would get to choose a book from the class library to take home over the weekend. I always wanted to take more than one, and by end of the year had read every book at least twice. At the end of the year we had a field trip to the town library. Oh my heavens! Who knew there were so many books?! And in one place! I couldn’t wait to get my first library card. As kids my sisters and I walked or rode our bikes to the nearest branch library at least once a week , and during the school year I would cart books home by the armload from the school library.

Ironically, I have not had a library card since college, but more because I don't always read the books I get rightaway—too many in the towering TBR mountain range, don't you know—or simply because I'm not in the mood for a particular book right at that moment and set it aside. There's too much pressure to read what you've borrowed right away. Plus you're not allowed to keep those you end up liking. But I digress.

Even in elementary school I was most drawn to books that had ghosts and witches in them. I loved the paranormal elements, but have never cared for the horror genre, in books or movies. You don’t have to have blood and gore to have a good ghost story, or bewitching. Do you remember the Dorrie books? I used to love those! And one of my childhood favorites, read many times and still on my bookshelf, is The Ghosts by Antonia Barber. I even used it in a college paper on Yeats!

When I was 10 or 11, I was gifted with the first three Trixie Belden books one Christmas and inhaled the series as fast as I could get my hands on them. And yes, I still have all of the series, except for 3 or 4 that I missed before they stopped publishing them. Have you ever noticed how there are a ton of Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books in various editions at the UBS, but never any Trixie Beldens?

In middle school I progressed to Agatha Christie and Lois Duncan. It was in sixth grade that I happened upon one of my all-time favorite books in school library, Witch of the Glens by Sally Watson. It had paranormal elements, it had romance, and it was set in historical Scotland. How could I could resist? I read it several times and seriously wanted to steal it from the library. I would love to get my hands on a copy, but the book is long out of print and editions now go for a few hundred dollars. I only wish I were kidding. I am not paying $300 for a book, no matter how much I love it. Another book I loved and have not seen since high school was The Shadows of Castle Fosse by Jill Tattersal, a Gothic romance. And who could forget The Witch of Blackbird Pond?

In high school, I alternated Agatha Christies with YA romances, particularly the First Love by Silhouette series. I sometimes regret getting rid of all those, but my shelves are crammed full as is. College was busy with required reading for all those English and French classes, with the occasional romance or general fiction sneaked in when I needed a break from the classics and wanted to read for fun. This is when I discovered Johanna Lindsey, Catherine Coulter and Elizabeth Lowell—all authors who have since moved on to romantic suspense. After college I read a lot of historical and contemporay romance, and little else.

Now, my reading choices have returned where they began, back to those mystery and paranormal stories. Though I don’t mind contemporary romance, general fiction or even a classic now and then, I tend to gravitate towards the mystery, suspense, and thriller genres—with or without romance and/or paranormal elements—and the occasional historical thrown in for good measure. This is what made Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series so spectacular—it had all that in one series—both a contemporary and historical setting, romance, mystery, and paranormal elements. You couldn't ask for anything more! Some of my favorite authors these days include: Rebecca York, Lisa Gardner, Kay Hooper, Catherine Coulter, Elizabeth Lowell, Nora Roberts, Karen Rose, and Charlaine Harris.

What about you? How have your early reading habits shaped you or your current reading choices? Have your reading choices changed over the years?


Bethanne said...

I forgot about Agatha Christy! I loved her books, too!

Heather said...

Gasp! How could you forget about Agatha Christie? I loved Hercule Poirot!

Angela said...

Hey, I just rented the Outlander movie...and watching it, I thought "This would be better as a book, I wonder if it was?" Good to know that it is - now I know what I'll be looking for at the bookstore!

PS - I remember Trixie Belden, too - great series!

Heather said...

Angela - I don't think we're talking about the same Outlander. No vikings in this one, just men in kilts. The one I refer to is first in a series of time-travel romances by Diana Gabaldon. Jamie Fraser is the quintesential hero. Post-WWII, Claire is hurtled backwards in time through a miniature Stonehenge and ends up in 1700 Scotland, where she meets Jamie. According to imdb.com, there is a movie currently in developement for 2011.

Angela said...

I realized they were different when I started reading the book - interesting that they have a somewhat similar premise, though. The book is great!