When I reflect on my reading journey I can usually pinpoint roughly five books that paved the way to the book lover I am today. My childhood was one where mom would cook dinner and dad would sit with a toddler on each knee and a book to pass the time. Of the two toddlers, only one developed a lasting relationship with reading. I am the middle of three daughters and my father passed on his love of reading to two out of three. If I lacked something to read my parents were happy to oblige with library visits or eBay shopping. To this day, as a married woman, I wrap my father’s Christmas presents for my mother and am usually rewarded with a book of my choosing as a stocking stuffer for my “hard” work.
The time came when I left my childhood home to join households with my partner in crime and I was faced with the hardest task in my life. I had to choose what to keep, leave, and donate in regards to my cherished book collection. I started this job a month before I made the move, not only because of the difficulty I knew that I would face, but also because I was moving 23 years of life into a new space. I managed one box of donations, two boxes of leaving, and five boxes I simply could not part with. This does not include my compilation of manga, which would take up three boxes on it’s own. As someone who thinks of books as fondly as a much loved family member, I sincerely thought that I needed them all.
I proudly displayed my piles to my niece (six years my junior) and older sister (her mother, and 13 years my senior), they looked at me as if I was delusional. I had never moved in my life and had no concept of the difficulty of it or how to fit two people’s existences into an apartment. My sister was the one to burst that bubble. So we sat down and meticulously went through my collection and my piles shifted into a more realistic distribution of my books. This was by no means an easy thing and a handful of arguments going, “Morgan. You do not three copies of the same book that you don’t like” of “You didn’t read that during your undergrad, why do you think that will change now?” I think we both said things we didn’t mean that day.
I made sure that none of the books, that were most important to me, found itself in the donation pile. Almost all of them made the trip to my new home, but the ones that didn’t stayed with my parents in storage with the reassurance that it wasn’t forever and we would be together again soon.
Of my books, these five (in no particular order) are the ones that I can say for certain that they represent important stages of me:
1.) Johnny Lion’s Book by: Edith Thatcher Hurd
~ I cannot count how many books my parents, dad in particular, read to me growing up. And I definitely do not have access to all of them either. There is one that I can see the pages of, and recite some of the prose, but no amount of Google searches have brought this book back into my life. I do, however, still have my original copy of Johnny Lion’s Book. This book seems like the most autobiographical story about any bibliophile who uses reading primarily as an escape. It’s about a little lion who is given a book by his parents, and the adventure that he takes through reading while his parents are away supporting (hunting) the family. It not only would take me to the savannah where I could hang out with a lion, but it also showed me the power a book could have on someone, before I was able to read independently.
2.) Dear America Various Authors
~ These books are wonderful. These are fictional diaries written by children about the real events of America’s history. They cover Titanic, wars, and Manifest Destiny without treating it like a history lesson. I remember seeing my best friend from school reading them and asking the librarian what it was that she was reading. I insisted that she look up on her computer so that I too could read a diary. Fast forward to that Christmas when I received a box of about 15 different Dear America‘s from Santa for my reading pleasure. My parents scoured eBay for days trying to win me the loftiest collection available. To this day I still own these books with the kind of obsession that prevents me from loaning them out for the pure sentimental value. This is abnormal for me as I typically do not hesitate to hand out books and accept that if I never get them back that the borrower needed them more than I did.
3.) Anne of Green Gables by: L. M. Montgomery
~ Even before reading about Anne I wanted to have red hair. So reading about a whimsical young woman with the hair of my dreams was pure bliss. I remember exactly where I was when I bought the entire series for $5. My grandpa’s neighbor was having a garage sale and I went through every book in every box until I had found every book. She was very impressed how dedicated I was after admitting that she didn’t even think she had the whole series, but I persisted. It is one of those books that I cannot wait to pass on to the children in my life, and this Christmas I will be giving it one of my husband’s cousins. Not to mention that when I watched the series I fell absolutely in love with Gilbert Blythe.
4.) Harry Potter Series by: J. K. Rowling
~ Duh. Ravenclaw until the day I die.
5.) Gacha Gacha by: Hiroyuki Tamakoshi
~ This was my first manga. Not only was it my first manga but the woman who sold it to me unknowingly sold an OT (Older Teen) manga to a nine year old. Having a sister who is 13 years older than I am, I was desperate to be more mature than my years, but I should not have had that manga. Although it did spark an interest in the concept of whole worlds and stories being told with pictures sans superheroes. I had naturally seen Sunday comics and stolen my dad’s copies of The Incredible Hulk, but this extended further than that.
I wish that I could press a button in my cheek that will print out a list of the books that I have read in my lifetime. While this is not the reality that I live in, I have made strides this year to be more dutiful to recording books on my Good Reads page (what a lifesaver). I also want to make a point to line up a challenge for myself next year. My goal was 25 books this year, which was more of a placeholder so that I make a point to record, next year I anticipate a loftier goal. I’d like to set up categories, maybe per month, to read certain genres or books I’ve put off for one reason or another.
Please let me know if you have any suggestions!