How I read from there to here!

Recently, I’ve been thinking of all the books I’ve read in my life … not that I can actually remember them all—or even a third. Specifically, I’ve thought of different categories of books and when I read them. While waiting for my first son to be born I read the likes of Updike, Angelou, and Bradbury. By the time my second son was born, less than two years after the first, I used my reading time mostly to escape with Holt, du Maurier, and Clark.

They looked like angels.

Fast forward a few years and two more sons. As I recall, at that time, my tastes in reading seemed to fall mainly in two categories: horror and humor. Hello, King and Bombeck. This probably makes perfect sense to any mothers reading this.

By that time, I was also heavily involved in the church and that’s when non-fiction began to outweigh fiction. For the next 20+ years, I read far less fiction. Oddly—or maybe not—my fiction choices during that time were almost exclusively horror. I ended that period with two large bookcases, one filled with religious books and the other with King, Straub, Rice, Harris, and non-fiction books on the supernatural.

They might kill me for this one, circa 1993!

Then, my sons were grown and I rediscovered fiction. I eased in with Auel, Binchy, Gabaldon and then, I discovered my true love—Southern fiction—in the likes of Tyler, Reynolds, Smith, Walker.  When one future daughter-in-law recommended I widen my reading scope, I discovered books most of you had probably read when they were on the bestsellers list: Marquez, Russo, Hijuelos, Proulx, McCullers, and short story collections by O’Connor and Munro. The floodgates open, it seems now I discover a new favorite fiction author every week.

How about you? Has your adult reading path meandered or or been straight and sure?

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19 thoughts on “How I read from there to here!

  1. AH, your guys are all so nice-looking! I can’t imagine having FOUR boys though. My hub is one of five boys and the stories he tells of his childhood — his mother must have been a saint. or crazy. or both.

    Good list. Someone just gave me three Diana Gabaldon books and said they were must-reads. Is Haven Kimmel on your Southern writers list?

    So many books, so little time…..

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    1. I like to think of myself as a crazy saint. 🙂 Haven was born and raised a Hoosier like me, but I didn’t “discover” her until a year or so ago. I enjoyed her debut memoir and plan to get around to reading more of her work. Another debut by a Southerner that I’m reading (and loving) right now is “Bloodroot” by Amy Greene.”

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  2. You just made me realize how much I haven’t read! With the exception of Holt (who I love) and DuMaurier, King, Updike, Angelou, and Bradbury, I don’t know any of those authors. There are just too many authors and great books to read them all, I guess.

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  3. I love the juxtaposition of spiritual books & horror.

    I was fiercely romantic in my late teens & early twenties so was all about Jane Austen, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Coelho (to confirm that life had purpose). But when I was twenty-three I read Catch 22 and it’s been dark comedy for me ever since.

    Kind of sad that my favorite book at the onset of adulthood was The Alchemist & now it’s Slaughterhouse Five. Guess my worldview morphed a little bit.

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    1. That juxtaposition is sort of a classic: black and white, good and evil, dark and light, right? I’m embarrassed to say I haven’t read many of the books you’re supposed to read by the time you’re and adult. I suppose that’s because I didn’t go to college. Isn’t your worldview supposed to morph?

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  4. My reading path has only started to meander in the past few years, but meander it does. I’d say it bounces around worse than the little silver ball in a pinball machine. One minute I’m reading De Tocqueville and the next H.G. Wells. A few weeks ago it was MacCarthy, but before that Wm. Paul Young and Nicholas Sparks. Last year I read, Bradbury, Huxely, Neitzsche, Orwell, Camus, Vonnegut, and Donald Miller. (Just to name a few.) On my nightstand I have, King, Kimmel, Rand, Khoury, and Brennan.

    Funny thing is, when I was younger if it was not horror I wouldn’t open the jacket. Then I “graduated” to only books written by Sarte, Neitsche, Camus, and Kant. Now, if it is well written and the story draws me in, I’ll read any genre or literary. It just has to be good.

    Of course, looking at my taste written out on paper like this, it appears I may have multiple personality disorder.

    Maybe this exercise was a bit more self-revealing than it was intended to be. 🙂 Nah, I’m just an Odd Bird.

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    1. Like I said in reply to Kirsten, I haven’t read most of the books that other people have. I never “graduated” to the heavy books you did. I think multiple personality disorder is a given for fiction writers, isn’t it? 🙂

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  5. I gotta give myself credit, my reading path has been straight and true most of my life. However, I’d like to hear more about some of the authors you mentioned. Last names alone don’t ring many bells — not that having their full names would help an ignoramus like me — but I’d be interested in finding some good ol’ fashioned southern (or “redneck”) horror and literary horror (yes, I know) to round out my repertoire.

    🙂

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    1. Really? You’ve read the same stuff your whole adult life? Of course, maybe you’ve been widely read your whole life. It’s odd to me that for so long I read almost exclusively fiction, then reversed that to non-fiction, and now it’s back to fiction … except for those writing manuals that are meant to transform me into an amazing writer! 😉

      I think I confused you. The Southern writers I love don’t write horror. As for literary horror … well, in my opinion King’s fiction gets a bad rap. His book “The Stand” is a well-written classic tale of good vs. evil. Peter Straub is more traditionally literary I would say. But since horror is considered genre, by definition it can’t be literary, can it? (Like I care about labels!) Joyce Carol Oates certainly writes some gothic tales. Her classic “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” is a psychological horror story. Shirley Jackson’s novella “The Haunting of Hill House” is certainly a literary horror. Perhaps Thomas Tryon’s “Harvest Home” is considered literary. Are Thomas Harris’ Hannibal Lecter books considered horror? I really don’t know what type horror you read.

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  6. Sounds like our reading interest changes just like our TV interest.

    I go through phases. I’ll spend an entire year reading historical anything, then I’ll hate it for a year and only read new best sellers. I’m trying to step out of the box these days. I found this Irish author. Maggie O’Farrell, she’s next for me.

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    1. I think it’s only natural that our reading tastes fluctuate … not that I’m calling anyone whose doesn’t unnatural. Then again, I’ve been many different people in my life (so to speak) and I’ve just read what appealed to me in the place I was in at the time.

      I’ve a few Irish authors on my shelves, Maeve Binchy, of course, Frank and Malachi McCourt, and Roddy Doyle … probably others, but I’m brain-dead tonight.

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  7. Our paths sound familair. My foray into the non-fiction world lasted about 10 years, though. The first 20 years of my life I had read hand-me-downs, so I never really came into my own until many years thereafter.

    At least by reading others’ choices I got a well-rounded idea of what I really like. Which turns out is everything (except high fantasy and sci-fi).

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    1. Tricia, as you know, I don’t read those two either. But you’re currently much more widely read than I am. Now, I don’t want to read anything I wouldn’t want to write. I don’t care if it’s a book that’s been on the bestseller list for twenty years and everyone else in the world has read it. If it’s “not my thing”, I just can’t spare the time.

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  8. I love this post and seeing the pictures of your sons–then and now. One of the writers at Vermont College gave a lecture in January where he went through his whole reading life just like this. It was wonderful too. I’m going to have to sit down and try to remember mine. Your post will spur me on. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Oh, wow, that makes me feel positively educated to know you heard a lecture similar to this at Vermont College. I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot lately and will probably revisit this with more insight in the future. I want to understand why I went from writing horror to literary, is it because my reading tastes changed or vice versa?

      Btw, the second photo is not “now” … hence the “they’ll kill me.” 🙂 *sigh* I’m so old. 😦

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  9. I’ve read several of the books you’ve listed. I’m kind of weird though. I don’t particularly know how to analyze my reading habits. I know I do love many of the classics. I like to read books which are on the library book discussion group list. I like to read books that other readers mention. Mostly I like fiction, in fact primarily. I don’t like to read junk. I tend to read books which I sense have something
    worthwhile to offer.
    Presently, I’m listening to the audiobook, The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, while I drive. I picked up The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Shaffer and Barrows today at the library. I just put down Tristram Shandy by Sterne after reading about a third of it. I decided the gems I was digging for were too few and far between to warrant the sore eyes from shoveling.
    Pardon this rambling comment. It’s a mess but then that’s the way my brain is functioning today.
    Your family is beautiful. Plop me in the middle of the four boys and you’ll have a pretty good idea of my growing up years.

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    1. Hey, Shaddy. I’ve seen your comments on other blogs and visit your blog from time to time. At this point in my life, there’s just not time to read anything I don’t enjoy. I have no qualms about putting down a book that doesn’t grab me. That’s usually why I check out a book from the library before I decide to buy it. I hate not to read a book, if I’ve paid good money for it.

      I’m a little envious. I have no brothers and always felt I was at a disadvantage because of it.

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