Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Reading, Then and Now

I'd love to say I come from a long line of readers, but nothing could be further from the truth. I was an anomaly in my family, the only one who enjoyed reading for pleasure as opposed to reading for information.

I never knew either of my parents to read a novel. Not the bible either. They both knew how to read and read quite well... the daily newspaper, repair manuals, cookbooks, the church bulletin, and select magazines (Popular Science for my dad, Ladies Home Journal for my mom). But I don't ever remember them reading a fictional book.

My brothers weren't really readers either. My older brother had a small book shelf of Zane Grey paperbacks back in his high school days but I never saw him read one. My younger brother had a nice collection of comic books including Archie's Girls, Betty and Veronica and a few Batman books, but that's about it. Oh, and we had a set of Funk and Wagnalls Encyclopedias too. My mom bought those from one of the local grocery stores. I think they featured a different volume every couple weeks so it was easy for her to pick one up with the week's groceries.

And then there was me. I learned to read early and loved it. I had a few Golden Books when I was a small child which I read and reread a zillion times. When I was school age I would beg my mom to let me buy Scholastic books when they were sold at school. She would relent and let me buy one a couple times a year but she always thought buying books was a waste of money. Why buy books when you can borrow them from the public library for free? (Remnants of her Great Depression-era upbringing... frugality!)  Especially since you'll never read them again anyway (she sooo didn't get it). Which is not to say my mom didn't encourage me to read, she did. She was always more than willing to drive me up to the local library to get some books to read after my dad got home from work with the car.

One of the things I liked best about summer vacation was the long hours available for reading books. Especially on rainy days. It was my secret, you know. The girls I played with in my neighborhood weren't readers either so I kept my reading habit to myself... didn't want to risk getting teased. I loved books about animals, particularly books about horses and dogs. The Black Stallion and Lad A Dog were hardcover books I remember owning and reading over and over again.

I also remember accompanying my dad to the Salvation Army thrift store when I was about 10-12 years old. We'd go down on Saturday mornings and he'd be off to look for lawn mowers and old TV sets and I'd head for the books. My favorite was the Cherry Ames (nurse) series. I'm not sure what it was that appealed to me about those books but I remember reading quite a few of them.

During my junior high years (12-14), I was done with animal stories and nurses. I was boy crazy and all I wanted to read were books about teenage girls chasing teenage boys. The Gidget series was a favorite of mine... Gidget In Love, Gidget Goes Parisienne, etc. And when I wanted advice about boys and dating, my go-to book was, For Every Young Heart by Connie Francis (yeah, the singing star from the 1950s). I still own Connie's book and a couple of the Gidget ones too. One never knows when one will need to consult an expert about social situations...
     The most important requirement on a date is good grooming. First impressions count, and since there's not enough time on a first date for him to find out the exact depth of your mind or how sensitive, understanding, and lovable you are, you have to make sure he likes what he sees enough to call back a second time.
     For casual dates, wear your prettiest skirt and sweater combo. Big Saturday nights call for special finery, and when you're not sure whether it's dancing, a show, dinner, or all three, a basic outfit, dressed up with pearls or a wispy scarf, should do fine.
     What you wear always depends on what you'll do and how the other kids dress. The only absolute "don't" in my book is slacks. Never wear slacks on a date, unless it's a rugged out-door picnic or an evening at an amusement park. Otherwise, I think slacks are an insult to a boy. [From "For Every Young Heart" by Connie Francis, c. 1962 by Prentice-Hall, Inc, Englewood Cliffs, N. J. p.79]
The hilarious part is that by the time I actually started dating, along about 1970 or so, the Hippie generation was making love not war, loving the one they were with, and both the girls and guys were wearing peace symbols, tie-died t-shirts, and jeans for every occasion they could get away with, lol!

Which brings me to my high school years. During high school I had my nose in a book an awful lot but mostly those books were text books. The few novels (not assigned by teachers) I remember reading were, Gone With the Wind, Love Story, Chocolate Days Popsicle Weeks, The Godfather, and California Generation. I'm sure there were others but those are the ones that come to mind.

During my college years and for many, many years thereafter, I was hooked on romances. Not the serial romances by Harlequin but romances by the likes of Nora Roberts, Judith McNaught, Amanda Quick, Jude Devereaux, and Kathleen Woodiwiss... it all started with Kathleen in the 1970s. I preferred historical romances for many years and then switched to contemporary romances sometime in the 1990s. In the early 2000s I started reading Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series and that's when I started really appreciating romantic humor.

I married a man who is the reader anomaly in his family too. We have two kids, one is a voracious reader like we are and the other is a read-for-information only person. We love them both! ;-)

These days I will still pick up a summer romance story to read when I'm laying on the beach but not so much otherwise. Sadly, I read more Facebook updates and genealogy and photography blogs than anything else (only so many hours in a day and something had to give). I do have a couple of non-fiction ebooks going right now... Natural Light by Mitchell Kanashkevich and Women Writing on Family : Tips on Writing, Teaching and Publishing by Carol Smallwood and Suzann Holland. I can recommend Natural Light. I'm not finished with it but I'm most of the way through it and its taught me a lot about how to make the most of natural light when shooting pictures. I've just barely started Women Writing on Family so I hesitate to recommend it yet, but it looks good. It's a collection of essays on subjects relevant to writing and publishing a family history.

And I always read the Carnival of Genealogy, of course!

It has been interesting, the march of technology from traditional printing to ebooks. I'm becoming more fond of ebooks as time goes by. I'm very grateful to have reading as a hobby. It has entertained me on long winter nights and boring rainy days and amused me while laying on the beach or poolside on bucolic summer days. And then there are the sleepless nights... where would I be without books???

[Written for the 118th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy.]