Though I did not start reading particularly early, when I began, I dove straight into binge reading.
As a girl, my favorite reading spot was behind the purple velvet couch in our dining room, where the back curved out from the wall at an angle, making a perfect little cave. It was dark and quiet and the right kind of cramped. (And yes, we had a purple velvet couch. Unless my memory is lying to me.)
When I ran out of new books at home, I would borrow the reading textbooks from my school. My teachers kept a few copies of the books from the years before and I would read through a whole textbook in a night. I flew through story after story, skipping the comprehension questions and index, of course. I loved the smell of their pages and the weight of their spines. Each month our elementary school classes had a pizza party if the students read a specified total. My pages each month alone would have secured the party. Since this was a little embarrassing, I often fudged my numbers down.
In the summers my mom took my brother and I to the library more than the pool (though we went there too) and I signed up each year for the summer reading challenge. You would pick a goal number of books and keep track on a sheet of colored paper they provided. In sixth grade, my goal was 200 books. I met it and then some.
These days, my voracious reading appetite is in starvation mode. Elbowed out by children and online reading and TV, I forget sometimes how much I love to read books. I forget the feel of paper between my fingers, the scent of paper. I used to be a connoisseur in the smelling of books, but mostly now I mostly smell little people and cleaning spray and loads of coffee.
Then I pick up a good book and my entire life comes to a halt.
I may not be underneath the velvet couch, I am certainly in a cave of reading. In the past 24 hours, I read 400 pages, completing Tana French’s Faithful Place. (In case you’re wondering, I loved it. But I like my fiction dark, so unless you do too, steer clear.) I read while walking. I read while feeding Cooper. I read while stopped at red lights in the car. I read in the Ikea cafe, holding a baby in one hand. I read while brushing my teeth.
Hi, I’m Kirsten and I’m a binge reader. When I dive into the cave with a book, I am all in until it’s over. Barely clutching the rope that can pull me back out, hardly seeing the light at the entrance to the cave, I’m dug down deep with only half an eye on the rest of the world. It’s not the best way to parent. Or maintain personal hygiene. Unless you have a plastic bag to take the book in with you.
The best of books, they do something to you.
In the same way that I often come home from seeing live music with my fingers itching for the guitar strings beneath them, a good book turns the wheels of my mind. Those wheels where my novel is concerned have been long dusty, but I heard a creaking groan today that I’m pretty sure was that novel waking up.
I’m working on a manuscript that has a bit of a mystery to it. Okay, more than a bit. And I’ve found myself feeling oddly uncomfortable and embarrassed as I lay down in words the pieces of the mystery. You can’t have too many clues, or too few. They have to be just right, and you never know how hard that is until you try to write them. I feel encouraged and cheered on by this latest read, and I think that I have some better idea where to go and how to get there, what tracks to lay down and which to pull up.
Have you read anything that’s done something to you lately?