Reading vs Life

We are blogging this month on our favorite books and stories, but I wanted to share why books and stories are important to me.

As a child I often escaped into secret places to read. There wasn’t much at home to read except the encyclopedias and a set of classics bound in pastel colors that were bought for my aunts and uncles to read when they were in school. The farm, my grandmother’s homestead, was fifteen miles from town so we didn’t go to town but once a week for groceries. We had a library in grade school that was left from the high school when it consolidated in the county. That library opened up vistas of excitement for me. I took stacks of books home until my arms ached from the weight. There was only twelve students in my class so I was lucky enough that the school was small enough that no matter what kind of kid you were, you were accepted and involved. At that time my favorites were stories of survival or masquerade. They still are for that matter, but now I want a healthy dose of romance in them.

During high school, I managed as a farm kid to get a driver’s license at fourteen and then found the county library. OOOhhhuuuweee. I found science fiction and as a little snob read the section and determined that romance was for those without the brainpower to read more. That was about a year before I found Georgette Heyer. She had me at page one of The Grand Sophie and I became a permanent convert to romance. Louis Lamoure beguiled me into westerns.

My mom didn’t seem to care if I read, but it disturbed my father a lot. After the initial excitement was over that I learned to read, he was worried and has had many a talk with me about the fact that books aren’t real and I needed to come out and live a real life. What he never understood, and still doesn’t, is that I comprehend real life very well. There isn’t enough in it to keep me entranced. I need both worlds. Never-ending cycles of dust deposit and removal just don’t do it for me. I need to visit other places, people, and times. With such a low availability of people, I need the imaginary ones to learn other things from. I’ve learned about sacrifice and nobility of spirit. I’ve learned of chicanery and spite. I’ve learned how to make handmade lace, jerky, and cheesecake. I’ve learned about the needs of plants, animals, children, and myself.

I have friends. I have acquaintances. I have people I’ve known for a lifetime and people who have known my family for a few generations and I theirs. I also have books for friends, acquaintances, and teachers. Books are more reliable. People die, move, or attend to their own business. A book is always there ready to share all it is at any time, day or night, storm or shade, un-judgemental, as long as you have the strength to open it. However, why do I choose romance over all other varieties? Because I think reading material ought to end on a satisfying and upbeat note precisely because real life can be very harsh, unpredictable, and sometimes doesn’t end well at all. And do you want to know some irony? I really miss those Harlequins I once turned my snobbish little nose up at, the ones that took us to countries, professions, and cultures around the globe—nurses with blind men, isolated Australian sheep farms, Portuguese families and old family names.

19 comments:

Joan Vincent said...

Great post, Nina. I never thought of books as acquaintences, friends, and teachers but that is a perfect description. I can't imagine life without books to leaven reality.
You comment on the county library reminded me how lucky we are in KS. Our public libraries are open free to all residents. In Illinois that is not so. My sister lives a mile from the city limits and was informed that she would have to pay $450 a year to use the library because of that!

Roxann Delaney said...

Nina, you already know that we share The Grand Sophie as our favorite Georgette Heyer book. I need to pull that one out and read it again, just for the sheer joy of it. Thank you!

Pat Davids said...

Amen, Nina.
Life can be low, a romance novel always brings me up.
Pat

Starla Kaye said...

Thanks for sharing your history with reading. My early life was much different, as I was encouraged to read and enjoy books almost from the womb. And I passed that on to my daughter.

Reading takes me to so many places that I might never get to visit. It lets me meet people from all walks of life that, again, I probably won't meet. It gifts me with experiences that I share with the characters at the time. I can't imagine my life without reading or writing.

Becky A said...

No matter what your life is like, good or bad, books can be there for you. They were my escape from issues I preferred to not think about. They showed me that things could be better. They taught me about a much larger world where people could be happy no matter what circumstances they might find themselves in. I still have a copy of Anne of Green Gables, Big Red, A Separate Peace, Bless the Beasts and the Children and Bang the Drum Slowly, among others. These books all spoke to me at different times in my life and I have kept some of them for 35 years. Sad to say I gave many of my cherished books to my children hoping that they would treasure them as I did, but we are all different and that didn't happen.
Books can make anything possible. Books can open up new worlds both real and imagined. Books can take you places you may never see in this life. Books can stir your curiosity to learn more about customs, careers, people groups and places. Reading was always encouraged in my home as a child and we have always encouraged our children and now grandchildren to read. I can barely imagine a life without the written word. Thanks Nina for making me examine my own thoughts on reading. Your insightful blogs are always fantastic!

Penny Rader said...

I also have books for friends, acquaintances, and teachers. Yes! I'd be so very lost without books. I've been reader for as long as I can remember, but I used to feel guilty for reading. When I was growing up, Mom would take us to the library, especially during the summer, but I never really saw Mom or Dad read books. My baby sister liked to read. Mom had magazines around. Could be she just had her hands full with all of us because now both of my parents and all of my sibs are avid readers, much to my delight.

Joan, how sad that your sister would have to pay $450 to use the city library. That's just wrong.

Nina Sipes said...

Joan, That's just WRONG! No wonder they're having issues in Missouri on education levels! I was just there and it was all over the TV! Our library system in Kansas is awesome! We have only 2,200 people in our county and we have a very nice library. When I moved to Denver at the age of 19, one of the first things I did was visit the library-it broke my heart to see it was SMALLER than our county library. I only went a couple of times, but I did discover bookstores! When I moved back to Stanton County, the library was still going strong, but I live on the State line with Colorado and visited the Baca County CO. library. They didn't even have a telephone as well as having book from off the ark. Ron and I paid to have a phone installed--they could afford the monthly 22.00. Library systems are only as good as the people running them. The KS counties have me in to speak occasionally on subjects of writing etc. Baca Colorado refuses to have me in the Libraries AT ALL because they don't want to have anyone commercial in it. Since I'm an author, I'm in business and that's commercial status. I don't sell my books at library talks, but that made no difference.
But to CHARGE for use--that's disgusting. I'm so glad you shared that.

Nina Sipes said...

Rox,
Did you know that Georgette Heyer wrote a lot of who-done-its as well as romances?

Nina Sipes said...

Pat,
I was just chastising someone last week for not having a romance around the house for settling the nerves when life takes a whack at you.

Nina Sipes said...

Becky,
I too have shared a friend with another only to have it--well--not treated as well as I would. It makes sense, though, when you realize your friends aren't your children's friends. Your children's friends aren't your friends. Don't send any more friends out into strange households....just your acquaintances.

Roxann Delaney said...

Nina, I recently discovered reprints of GH's books online and was amazed at the number of mysteries. So many of my GH books are missing, but I found several last year at the Art & Book Fair, so I grabbed them. Now I'll have to look for the newly-discovered-by-me ones. :)

Nina Sipes said...

Georgette Heyer was the first Author I collected. Her romances are the ones in the bookcase in my closet where they will come to NO harm. I have a tiny bookcase there. That bookcase has my most precious reads in it. It has been several years now since I have read any, perhaps now that I'm an author I should re-read them with my author's eyes. I wonder what I shall see....

Fae said...

Nina,
Hi, you do not know me but I just wanted to make a quick comment about the Missouri education. I'm guessing you were catching the discussions on the news concerning the Kansas City, MO, school district. (If you were not referencing that please feel free to ignore me.) That particular part of the education system is not indicative of all of the MO systems. It is one that has been having a lot of problems for several years mostly due to mismanagement. The news programs did not do at all well in representing the full scope of the situation.

Although I'm not sure why you associated paying for library use with the education system in MO. The public libraries here do not currently charge the public to check out books. I do know at one time in the KS town I grew up in there was a subscription charge to the county library to cover the cost and upkeep of the books and building. It was in the mid-eighties I believe that the library became mostly free after they were able to obtain funding in the county budget.

But all of that random knowledge aside, I agree books are friends, teachers and more.

Roxann Delaney said...

Just to set the record straight, it was Joan who mentioned the huge fee, and it was in Illinois.

Living in the county at one time meant that I had to pay a small fee to obtain a library card here. I did, and always wondered why, but it was so small (less than $5, if I remember correctly), it wasn't a big deal. I think that was changed several years ago.

Thanks to Andrew Carnegie, we have an excellent overall library system in the U.S. What would we do without it? That was especially true when we were children. Imagine the books we might never have read.

Anonymous said...

Fae,
Look what I did. I appreciate your keen eye as I wrote the wrong State in. MO was on my mind because we spent a few days in ST. Louis, and education, gov. spending, and problems were all over the news the whole time. They're having to close an awful lot of schools there.
I should be more vigilant in my writing.
Nina
Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Any idea why blogger won't let me sign on as myself? Anyone?
Nina

Roxann Delaney said...

No idea at all, Nina aka Anon. *grin* I've been having problems with internet all morning. Maybe it's just having major problems all over the place. Try again later. If you're still having problems, email me.

Fae said...

Nina,
We all have days where the mind doesn't connect the dots we were looking for. :) I hope I did not sound like I was giving a lecture.

Roxann,
I've always been a fan of the library system myself. Almost lived at the public library when I was a kid.

Nina Sipes said...

Fae,
I'm glad you commented. We hope we have lots of readers, some may be from affected areas. It wouldn't be kind to insult them.