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May 1, 2011

A Lengthy Recitation of the Evolution of My Reading Habits

We went to the bookstore today to get some new books, real books, for me and the kids. Rich doesn't read real books anymore. He has crossed over to the dark side.

He bought a Nook.

He does read a lot of really expensive computer reference books that are much cheaper to buy in electronic form, and it is a pretty cool little gadget, but still...

Bookstores are one of my favorite places in the world to be. Surrounded by all that imagination, all those other worlds and stories, all that creativity and artistry, all that information, all those epiphanies and paradigm shifts just waiting for me to pluck them down from every enlivens me and calms me all at once.

Even the smell of a book, the weight of it in my hands, the way a beautiful cover feels under my fingers, adds to my love of not only reading, but of the books themselves. If ever I am absurdly rich, one of the indulgences I am going to allow myself is a grand library with floor to ceiling shelves lining the walls, rolling ladders attached to each leading to high tucked away corners. There will be a fireplace and large cozy window seats upon which to perch for hours reading a new or old favorite. I dream of that room. A bookstore all my own.

My library would be a farce to real book collectors, though. I'm no literary genius. I read what I like, and I like modern fiction. I like weird fiction. I like young adult (YA) fiction. I do love some classics, like those of Shakespeare and CS Lewis. But let's face it; they were weird guys with strange intensities and senses of humor that I adore. But others, like Hemingway, Sir Walter Scott and many other acclaimed authors, are a huge bore to me. I own a lot of their books, but most I read because they were assigned to me in school or because I felt like I should add them to my repertoire on my journey to becoming an intelligent educated woman. Enjoyment wasn't often involved.

Back to the bookstore revelation. After an exhaustive search online last night for the next book to sweep me away into a wonderfully weird world, a place I can escape to that holds my imagination and captures my mind so that I think of it even when I'm not reading it; I realized how much my tastes have changed over my 36 years.

Back when I was in the actual age range for the YA genre, I was instead reading very adult horror novels that left nothing - nothing - to the imagination. These authors described everything in graphic detail and kept me locked in their firm grip come hell or high water (usually both). But I dug that intensity back then. Maybe because I hadn't done enough living on my own or learned enough about the world second hand to be able to arrive at the conclusions another way. Maybe I needed the conclusions to be forced upon me so blatantly because I just wasn't ready to be gently led.

While some of those books are still among my favorites, mostly due to sharp writing styles and awesome character development, I think I'm regressing now, at least as far as my preferred genre. I want books that take me places and let me escape into them, but that also leave somewhere for my imagination to fill in the gaps, that let me wonder and wander around a little without pushing me around every corner, that let me relive some of the youth I was so quick to put behind me back then. YA books seem to do that.

Don't let the description of YA conjure up images of dimwitted or immature authors who water down their writing, because that is very far from the truth. After all, CS Lewis, JD Salinger and Mark Twain, among many others, are considered YA authors for some of their most prolific books.

Though not all of my new favorite authors are extremely skilled writers, a lot of them are. But what I dig now, even more than the proper and accomplished use of the English language, is amazing storytelling. And if an author can weave an incredible tale that captivates me, and develop strong characters that I love (or loathe, as the case may be), as long as their writing isn't distractingly mediocre; I'm in.

So I'm off to read a book about good vs evil in a place where the real world intersects with a fantasy world, where legends and myths weave in and out of seemingly normal lives to create a land of fierce beauty and fragile romance and determined wickedness, where the journey is fraught with peril and paradigm shifts, where heroes come in all forms, where good usually prevails, and where the author doesn't push me where they want me to go but, rather, guides me and lets my imagination take me as far as I'm willing to go.

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